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Rovers and Pats share the spoils



It was a fixture with real potential. The first weekend of a new Airtricity League Under-19 season pitted these two southwest rivals together.

Both had shown varying degrees of good form last term. And while many of last year's playing personnel have moved on, there were familiar names on both team-sheets. Some changes among the coaching staff of both clubs too, so we sat in anticipation of high entertainment. Could either, or both, put down a marker of real intent for the season ahead?

But maybe we expected a little too much. With so many new faces on the pitch, and on the bench, we could hardly expect a seamless transfer into the new season. And, we must remember that match results are not the be all and end all of what this league is about.

It's about the development of players, and providing them a pathway into senior League of Ireland fare. To that end, the evidence showed that the players, for the most part, were trying to do the right thing.

The game soon became a midfield arm wrestle. Gavin Boyne of Pats and in particular Ryan Doolin of Rovers were looking especially tetchy.

A neat home move down the left ended with Muhammed Bukhatwa clear in front of the Pats goal, but his fierce drive went just over the bar. The Saints were showing that they had real attacking threat down the flanks from Toyeeb Mustapha and Peter Hopkins, while up front Ethan Keogh and Jack Bayly had some good touches. And in midfield Boyne, when relieved of the clutches of Doolin, was displaying the cultured touches to which we have become accustomed over the last couple of seasons.

However, the Rovers defence was up to the challenge. Shane Fagan in goal was fronted by Sean Heaney and Conor Dunne, while full-backs Nathan Brown and Alan Kehoe were composed. Up front for the Hoops, Mark Sandford and Stephen Confrey were looking lively but the most dangerous attacking presence was provided by Libyan star Bukhatwa, especially in the second half.

His quality was there for all to see in two moments after the break. A stinging shot from distance on the right forced Fagan into a diving save. While a little later, his sumptuous control saw him nutmeg one defender, drift past another two, before unleashing a thumping right footer which crashed against the bar with Fagan beaten all ends up.

Before the end, ref Carey had some housekeeping to do with yellow cards, before Doolin saw red following his second caution, this time for a difference of opinion with Carey.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Shane Fagan, Nathan Browne, Alan Kehoe, Sean Heaney, Conor Dunne, Ryan Doolin, Cian Kavanagh, Jack Watson, Mark Sandford, Stephen Confrey, Muhammed Bukhatwa. Subs. Kelvin Jackson, Clayton Stafford, Azezz Yusuff, Ryan Dick, Philip Daly, Richard Purdy, Michael Kelly.

ST PATRICKS ATHLETIC: Aaron Rochford, Jordan O'Reilly, Stephen Dunne, Conor Mahony, Daniel Campbell, Sam Verdon, Peter Hopkins, Jack Bayly, Ethan Keogh, Gavin Boyne, Toyeeb Mustapha. Subs. Thomas Mulroney, Stephen Hogan, Jake Corrigan, Ross Kenna, Adam Walsh, Conor Mooney

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