Graham Burke’s rapid hat-trick sends Shamrock Rovers top of the pile

Substitute scored three times in the space of 15 minutes in Tallaght

Shamrock Rovers 3 Sligo Rovers 1

Substitute Graham Burke scored a hat-trick inside 15 minutes as Shamrock Rovers came alive in the second half to put Sligo Rovers to the sword at Tallaght Stadium.

Their eighth win in an 11-match unbeaten run, coupled to St Patrick’s Athletic holding Derry City to a 0-0 draw, moves the champions back top of the table for the first time in two months, a point ahead of Derry who visit Dublin 24 on Friday night.

Clearly mindful of that top-two clash, Rovers made seven changes from Friday’s pedestrian 3-1 win over Finn Harps.

But it was Sligo, featuring six changes from their tame defeat at Shelbourne the same night, who were the better side throughout a dour first half in which neither goalkeeper had a save to make.

Hoops manager Stephen Bradley made no fewer than four changes for the second half with Chris McCann, Andy Lyons, Rory Gaffney and Burke replacing Gary O'Neill, Neil Farrugia, Aaron Greene and Aidomo Emakhu.

It had an almost immediate effect as Rovers forced two early corners before they were ahead on 54 minutes.

Sligo defender Colm Horgan's misplaced pass was intercepted by Lyons. He fed Jack Byrne to find Burke who drove home off his weaker right foot.

Sligo were exposed again within two minutes. Gaffney outmuscled Nando Pijnaker on the right to turn and pick out Burke in acres of space. The Ireland international strode forward to confidently drill a shot past Richard Brush from the edge of the area.

The hat-trick arrived on 69 minutes. Lyons was again involved setting up Burke in a pocket of space to rifle home the pick of his treble from outside the area to make it seven goals for the season.

Substitute Aidan Keena blasted home a fine consolation goal for Sligo with eight minutes to play.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Mannus; Hoare, Lopes, Kavanagh; Cotter, O'Neill (Burke, h/t), Byrne (Towell, 75 mins), Watts, Farrugia (McCann, h/t); Greene (Gaffney, h/t), Emakhu (Lyons, h/t).

SLIGO ROVERS: Brush; Buckley, Pijnaker, McCourt; Horgan (O'Sullivan, 80 mins), Bolger, Keogh (Fitzgerald, 62 mins), McDonnell (Morahan, 82 mins), Banks; Mata (Heaney, 62 mins), Hamilton (Keena, 62 mins).

Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin).

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