Shamrock Rovers 4 Sligo Rovers 0
Well before this win it had been a question of ‘when?’ rather than ‘if’ with regard to Shamrock Rovers and this year’s title.
And having gone 11 points clear thanks to what was the most comfortable of wins, Stephen Bradley’s side now need just five more from four games to be absolutely sure. Four, if you care to take goal difference into consideration.
With the club’s next game, against Finn Harps, set to be postponed, the start of the celebration might still be a couple of weeks away but like a socially distanced Christmas, it’s coming . . . that much is certain at this stage.
Liam Buckley's hopes of his side taking something from this game and so delaying the inevitable ever so slightly took a blow less than a quarter of an hour in when Aaron Greene picked out Ronan Finn on the edge of the area and the midfielder was given the time to turn and shoot.
As it happens, he directed the effort straight at Ed McGinty but the goalkeeper, called up to the Irish under-21 squad earlier in the day, somehow allowed it squeeze under him and Sligo suddenly found themselves having to come behind.
Given the strength of their frontline, the task didn’t seem completely insurmountable but the visitors struggled to generate any sort of chances. When they won the ball at the back, they moved it forward towards their opponents’ area with a definite sense of purpose but they tended not to look quite so great once they got there.
Capitalising on all the uncertainty, Liam Scales and Lee Grace repeatedly relieved the strikers of possession and got things moving in the opposite direction. The attacks down the left, which generally involved Neil Farrugia, proved to be a particular problem for the visitors and McGinty got to make amends for his earlier error before the half was up with decent stops from Aaron Greene and Jack Byrne.
The midfielder, recalled this week to the senior international squad, was on his game again until departing in the second half, with a minor injury it seemed, and when he picked out Graham Burke with a brilliantly weighted ball there was nothing at all that the young goalkeeper could do to keep the Dubliner's close-range finish out.
Though Sligo started the second half a little more brightly, they barely tested Alan Mannus and having lost momentum again, they allowed the hosts to pick up where they had left off earlier by working the ball down the left then inside. This time the final pass was Burke to Byrne but the outcome was exactly the same. Byrne's replacement, Dylan Watts rounded the scoring off with 12 minute play.
The four points should actually do rather nicely.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Mannus; Grace, O'Brien (S Kavanagh, 79 mins), Scales; Finn (Marshall, 75 mins), O'Neill, McEneff, Farrugia (Lafferty, 79 mins); Byrne (Watts, 75 mins); Burke, Greene (Williams, 79 mins).
SLIGO ROVERS: McGinty; Noone, McFadden, Buckley (Cawley, 81 mins), Penninkangas; Devers (Cooper, 64 mins), Seymore, Morohan; De Vries (Banks, 64 mins), Coughlan, Ogedi-Uzokwe.
Referee: D MacGraith (Mayo).