Shamrock Rovers 2, St Patrick’s Athletic 2
As Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic faced off on St Patrick’s Day for the first time in 186 league meetings, it was the Saints left celebrating as Jake Mulraney’s fine 89th-minute strike earned a point to help ease the pressure on manager Tim Clancy.
Richie Towell’s first goal of season and a 25-yard thunderbolt from Jack Byrne had the champions minutes away from a Dublin derby victory in front of 7,674 at Tallaght Stadium.
The champions had plenty of chances to seal the three points and were twice denied by the post, but St Pat’s struck late to deny the hosts a first win of 2023, with Eoin Doyle also on target from the spot in the dramatic clash.
The draw will be a boost to Clancy, who has been under fire of late after three successive defeats, as Richard Dunne and Keith Long also watched on in Dublin 24.
“A week is a hell of a long time in football,” said Clancy afterwards, who was sent off in injury-time.
"When you lose three times in seven days at a club like St Pat’s, you will be under scrutiny. I think we deserved a point. Hopefully, a performance like that will turn it around for us.”
Despite dropping two points late on for the third time in six games, Hoops boss Stephen Bradley was pleased with his side’s display. “I thought we were excellent. It is frustrating, of course, but that’s life. Right now, the small margins are going against us.”
The Hoops started the bank holiday clash on the front foot, with Celtic loanee Johnny Kenny whipping in three threatening crosses in the opening three minutes.
The Hoops should have taken the lead on 15 minutes as Jack Byrne’s pinpoint cross found the head of Roberto Lopes, but his attempt was well saved by Dean Lyness, who made his first start for the club after Clancy dropped David Odumosu.
Towell broke the deadlock five minutes later, though. Rory Gaffney teed up the 31-year-old with an expert pass between the lines as Towell found the bottom corner from the edge of the box for his first goal of the season.
The midfielder removed his black armband and raised it to the sky, in tribute to his teammate Aaron Greene, who wasn’t in the matchday squad after his mother Carmel died last Tuesday.
St Pat’s skipper Joe Redmond went inches from a leveller on the half-hour mark, while some excellent footwork by Neil Farrugia set up Kenny, who almost doubled Rovers’ lead firing just wide.
The Hoops were made to pay for their succession of missed chances as the visitors levelled five minutes before the break. Sean Hoare clipped Doyle inside the area and the striker made no mistake from the spot to level the derby, his second goal of 2023.
Sometimes it takes a moment of magic to go ahead in a derby, and that’s just what Byrne produced on 54 minutes. The Ireland international picked up the ball 25 yards out and unleashed a stunning shot into the top corner, a goal of the season contender.
But it was substitute Mulraney levelled the derby with a fine effort from 25 yards. Rovers were twice denied a winner at the death as Byrne hit the post and Lyness made a show stopping save.
Rovers remain winless in 2023, while it was the 1,200 away fans that went home singing. What a difference a week makes.
Shamrock Rovers – Mannus; Cleary, Lopes, Hoare; Farrugia, Towell, O’Neill, Clarke (Kavanagh 61); Byrne, Kenny (Grace 72); Gaffney (Gannon 84).
St Patrick’s Athletic – Lyness; McGrath, Redmond, Lewis (M Doyle 79); Breslin, Timmermans (Murphy 79, Forrester (McCormack 87), Kreida, Curtis; Carty (Mulraney 65), E Doyle (Lonergan 65).
Ref – D MacGraith