Hoops shrug off Flynn dismissal to crush Bohs
Shamrock Rvs 3
BOHEMIANS came to Tallaght with the intention of silencing those who argued that the contrasting European exploits of these bitter rivals was evidence that the balance of power is tilting towards Shamrock Rovers. They failed miserably in that mission.
Instead, Pat Fenlon's side maintained their 100pc losing record against the Hoops in Dublin 24, with the pain of defeat intensified by the fact that they conceded two of their three goals when the hosts were down to 10 men -- after Pat Flynn needlessly got himself sent off early in the second half.
Considering that Rovers were coming into this game feeling the effects of Thursday's second leg joust with Juventus in Italy, their freshness in the dying stages -- before you even consider the numerical disadvantage -- added an extra gloss to this success. All is well in their world right now.
"We didn't work hard enough," said a downcast Fenlon, as he reflected on another crushing reverse so soon after their ignominious humbling in Wales.
"They worked harder and they deserved to win the game."
The victory moves Rovers joint top with St Pat's and five clear of their arch rivals, with Bohs having a game in hand against bottom club Bray.
It's quite tight, and considering they lost twice in Tallaght last year and nevertheless claimed the crown, the Gypsies are well in the hunt.
"There's always an over-reaction when we lose derby games. But as I've said before, I don't care if we lose all four and win the league," said Fenlon, who batted off questions about his own future, saying: "We'll see how the players respond in the next few weeks."
The difference this term is that Rovers look better equipped to push on, whereas Fenlon is forced to cope with speculation about players leaving before the end of the month due to financial difficulties.
Michael O'Neill looked at the quality of his bench yesterday, with Neale Fenn, Billy Dennehy, James Chambers and Craig Sives available, and felt satisfied with his lot.
"If you'd offered that to me last year, I'd have bitten your hand off," he said. "We're seeing the strength of the squad now but, listen, there's a long way to go."
Bohs, who realised they were in enemy territory when the sprinklers were set on them during their warm-up, actually shaded the first half, yet went in a goal behind.
Stephen Bradley did hit the bar in the early stages for Rovers, but Fenlon's men were passing the ball better and won a series of free kicks in dangerous areas. The problem was that the standard of delivery throughout the game was awful.
Rovers struck with purpose in the 24th minute, when confusion between Owen Heary and Brian Shelley in dealing with the aftermath of a routine free allowed Thomas Stewart time and space to pull back for Dan Murray -- who had stayed forward -- to drill past Barry Murphy. "The first goal was vital," said O'Neill.
Bohs dominated the period before the interval, with Killian Brennan and Mark Quigley interchanging and causing problems.
Gareth McGlynn, deployed in the hole behind lone striker Paddy Madden, was struggling to get time on the ball -- or was fouled when he did -- with referee Dave McKeon increasingly in the centre of the action.
Still, the champions made inroads in a frantic spell before the interval with Madden -- watched here by Derby boss Nigel Clough -- denied by a Murray block following a fine solo run, Brennan striking the bar with an attempted cross and then Heary shaving the post with a speculative volley.
The break came at a good time for Rovers, who regrouped and pressed, with Stewart almost capitalising on messing from Shelley and Murphy, before an Aidan Price header crashed back off the bar.
Yet they looked in real trouble on the hour mark when Flynn kicked out at McGlynn following a soft foul, with few complaints about the decision among the partisan home crowd -- though O'Neill later suggested it might have been "harsh."
O'Neill withdrew Paddy Kavanagh and introduced defender Sives and prepared for a siege.
Within a minute, however, his side had doubled their advantage with Gary Twigg living up to his reputation by seizing his only chance of the game.
He collected a Price pass and twisted and turned away from the attentions of Oman, playing on when the Bohs defender handled and finding enough power in his shot for the ball to elude Murphy at his near post.
Fenlon made three switches, with Jason Byrne and Raffaele Cretaro joining Madden and Quigley to leave them with four recognised attackers on the pitch. Alas, the service in the final third remained poor.
Madden did strike the bar from close range -- otherwise Rovers were happy to defend deep, with Murray and Price in control.
"We were magnificent when we didn't have the ball, in terms of how we worked and kept our shape," said O'Neill.
Bohs were a beaten docket as the game entered the final five minutes, and duly shipped another when Stewart released sub Dennehy, who picked his spot with precision and kicked off another Rovers celebration.
Shamrock Rovers -- Mannus, Flynn, Price, Murray, Stevens; Kavanagh (Sives 61), Bayly, Bradley (Chambers 52), Rice, Stewart; Twigg (Dennehy 77).
Bohemians -- Murphy, Shelley, Heary, Oman, Rossiter (Cretaro 73); Brennan, Keegan, Cronin (Higgins 64), Quigley; McGlynn (Byrne 64); Madden.
Ref -- Dave McKeon (Dublin).