Kilduff strikes killer blow to see off gutsy Tribesmen
Galway United 2 Shamrock Rovers 3
A dramatic evening on the banks of the Corrib ended with Shamrock Rovers eking out a thrilling victory to keep alive their title ambitions.
These really are worrying times for all associated with the Terryland Park club -- this was their 22nd defeat in a row -- but this was a spirited display that needs to be replicated in the closing weeks of a trying campaign.
Initially it appeared as if Rovers would cruise to a routine success, but Galway were defiant, responding to the concession of an early goal to reply with two of their own either side of the break.
A lesser team than Rovers might have crumbled under the duress, but Michael O'Neill's charges knew that they had the talent and temperament to rescue the situation. That is precisely what they did as Galway's naive defending was exploited and Rovers took all three points.
O'Neill made five changes from the team that had battled so admirably when drawing in the Europa League qualifier with Partizan Belgrade.
Having squandered a couple of decent chances, Rovers hit the front in the 16th minute when Ciaran Kilduff outmuscled Yob Son before slipping a pass to Ronan Finn, who unleashed a glorious shot to the roof of the Galway net.
Despite conceding a goal, and with Rovers continuing to create opportunities, there was significant enthusiasm in Galway's play and they equalised in the 34th minute.
Craig Sives and Dan Murray didn't deal with an Alan Murphy delivery, and Galway substitute Mikey Gilmore ruthlessly punished Rovers' defensive hesitancy.
The rest of the first half saw Rovers venture forward without scoring and they were caught out again two minutes after the restart.
A wicked Stephen Walsh corner elicited panic in the Hoops defence and Eric Browne climbed highest to nod Galway ahead.
That Galway advantage only lasted four minutes, though, as Sives restored parity following a Pat Sullivan throw-in.
Rovers' recovery mission was completed on 57 minutes when Karl Sheppard headed the ball across goal and Kilduff applied the close-range finish.
Galway United -- Winn; Preston-Kelly, Browne, Son, Holland; Kim (Sibanda 88), Sinnott, G Kelly, Walsh (Ryan 68); Murphy, Collins (Gilmore 29).
Shamrock Rovers -- Thompson; Sullivan, Sives, Murray, Stevens; Sheppard, Turner, Finn, Moore (McCabe 61); Kilduff (Dennehy 66), O'Neill (Twigg 79).
Ref -- A Kelly (Cork)