Shamrock Rovers close the gap at the top with derby win over St Pat’s

Rory Gaffney scores only goal of the Dublin derby in front of sold out Tallaght stadium


Shamrock Rovers 1 St Patrick's Athletic 0

Shamrock Rovers closed the gap at the top of the Premier Division to three points following a hard-earned 1-0 win over St Patrick's Athletic.

For the second time this season, Tallaght Stadium was packed to the rafters, a full house having taken in the 1-0 win over Bohemians last month.

Almost 7,500 fans filed into Tallaght Stadium to watch a derby game that failed to light up on the field, but served up plenty of colour in the stands.

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Rory Gaffney grabbed the only goal of the game with a brilliantly-taken header six minutes into the second half following a tense and uneventful opening period.

The striker nodded past a helpless Saints keeper Joseph Anang as he peeled away to connect with Danny Mandroiu’s well-placed cross.

With the sold out signs having gone up when they visited Shelbourne last week, Dublin derbies continue to be among the biggest tickets in town.

Through a lengthy lockdown, Rovers were the only club not to reopen to fans until they could come back in large numbers to reward season ticket holders.

And those fans have repaid the club’s faith with some big attendances so far this season - derby games are predictably the most in-demand and most fiery.

A sizable away support was a visual spectacle as well as plenty of noise before the game but it took quite a while longer for the action on the pitch to follow suit.

It was half an hour before either goalkeeper was really tested as Alan Mannus was forced into a tidy low stop from Billy King, and Eoin Doyle couldn’t direct the rebound on target.

Rovers hit back almost immediately as Rory Gaffney found space in the box and his shot from a tight angle required Joseph Anang to react quickly.

The home side had a penalty shout as Mandroiu beat James Abankwah for pace before going down, but contact looked minimal.

The best action continued to take place off the field, Gary O’Neill and Abankwah tangling before the former was thrown to the ground. Referee Paul McLaughlin was lenient.

And a combination of Sean Hoare and Roberto Lopes did brilliantly to block a Darragh Burns shot after the Saints winger cut in on his favoured left foot.

The second half was quicker to get going and Rovers hit the front as Gaffney finished off a slick move down the right.

Danny Mandroiu and Ronan Finn played a one-two and Mandroiu’s inch-perfect ball was nodded home by the towering Gaffney at the back post.

Rovers continued to press and, after the Athletic gave up possession, space opened up for Jack Byrne to shoot, forcing Anang to save at full stretch.

From Byrne’s delivery at the resulting corner, Lee Grace rose highest but could only glance his header past the far post.

Neil Farrugia made an impact for Rovers from the bench, and he twisted and turned on the edge of the box before forcing Anang into action.

Saints boss Tim Clancy was aggressive in his substitutions and finished with four strikers on the pitch, Rónán Coughlan, Mark Doyle and Tunde Owolabi joining Burns.

It seemed to be one change too many as Rovers took advantage of the lack of shape, dominating the ball in the final stages, without looking like adding to their lead.

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Hoare, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace; Ronan Finn (Sean Gannon 89 mins), Gary O'Neill, Richie Towell (Dylan Watts 73 mins), Sean Kavanagh (Neil Farrugia 73 mins); Jack Byrne (Chris McCann 89 mins), Danny Mandroiu, Rory Gaffney (Aaron Greene 68 mins).

St Patrick's Athletic: Joseph Anang; James Abankwah, Joe Redmond, Tom Grivosti, Anto Breslin (Mark Doyle 74 mins); Adam O'Reilly (Ben McCormack 82 mins), Jay McClelland (Rónán Coughlan 74 mins), Chris Forrester; Darragh Burns, Billy King (Tunde Owolabi 74 mins), Eoin Doyle (Jack Scott 84 mins).

Referee: Paul McLaughlin.