O'Neill delight as McCabe sinks Sligo
Sligo Rovers 0
Shamrock Rovers 1
Shamrock Rovers manager Michael O'Neill believes his players have the ability to win games in more ways than one.
After having to take the game to 10-man Dundalk last week, the league champions found themselves defending an early lead against Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds.
"We had to show a different side to our character," reflected O'Neill. "I thought it was a great game with both teams going at it. We were up against an excellent Sligo side, but getting the goal so early in the game helped us and Sligo had to chase the game more than they would have done under normal circumstances."
The game's only goal came after just six minutes when former Sligo player Gary McCabe -- who converted one of the two successful spot-kicks that helped Sligo win the FAI Cup at Shamrock Rovers' expense last November -- fired a low shot into the net from the edge of the penalty area after Brendan Clarke had saved Gary O'Neill's initial effort.
The goal followed a hopeful punt upfield from goalkeeper Alan Mannus, and angered Sligo boss Paul Cook, who was hoping to give the majority of the 4,200 fans that crammed into the Showgrounds something to celebrate.
"It was a terrible goal to concede. We've been through that with the boys in the dressing-room, but things like that stay in-house," he said.
The home side created a number of chances after falling behind, with John Russell twice forcing saves from Mannus.
The Hoops 'keeper also denied Eoin Doyle from close range after a rehearsed free-kick was cleverly orchestrated by John Dillon and Russell.
Ken Oman was booked for fouling Russell and the home crowd were screaming for the Hoops player to be sent off shortly before the break after he appeared to catch Alan Keane with an elbow when contesting a high ball.
Referee Derek Tomney kept his cards in his pockets, giving O'Neill the chance to replace Oman at half-time.
In the second half, O'Neill felt his side should have had a penalty when Gary Twigg went down inside the area.
Tomney was unconvinced and the hosts almost grabbed an equaliser in injury-time, as both Jason McGuinness and Matthew Blinkhorn went close.
Sligo Rovers -- Clarke, Keane, Peers, McGuinness, Davoren, Dillon (Greene 57), Ventre (Kirby 57), Ryan (c), Doyle, Russell (Cretaro 74), Blinkhorn.
Shamrock Rovers -- Mannus, Sullivan, Murray (c), Oman (Flynn h-t), Stevens, McCabe, Turner, Finn, Dennehy, Twigg (Rice 86), O'Neill (Kilduff 77).
Ref -- D Tomney.