Casey doubles up to see off ragged Rovers
Bohemians 3 Shamrock Rovers 1
A heady mixture of graft and quality came through as the ideal formula for Bohemians to enjoy the ideal start to their new season, defender Dan Casey achieving hero status in a big Dublin derby.
And Bohs manager Keith Long hailed the character of his players as they overturned a 1-0 deficit at home to Shamrock Rovers to earn a rain-soaked but memorable 3-1 win.
Rovers had led 1-0 thanks to captain Ronan Finn but the fightback from Bohs, who overturned a 1-0 deficit with a three-goal salvo in the final 18 minutes, was impressive, goals from Casey (2) and ex-Hoop Paddy Kavanagh.
"We have come from behind and we dug out that win, we never gave up and that's the pleasing thing for me," said Long.
"We have to believe in ourselves more than we do sometimes, we have some decent players in our dressing room and we have lots of spirit, that will stand to us over the course of a season.
"But it's no good winning at home to Shamrock Rovers if we can't go to Limerick next week and do a job, that's a simple fact."
Former Sunderland defender Casey (20) had never scored a goal in senior football before but two headed efforts helped Bohs to a stunning win, Bohs fans gleefully chanting 'We are top of the league' after the final whistle.
Ronan Finn put Rovers ahead on 23 minutes, a simple tap-in from the Hoops captain after a Graham Burke shot had come off the post and fell kindly for Finn, and there will be a serious inquest into how they allowed that 1-0 lead turn into a defeat, pressure already on at Rovers who face Dundalk in their next outing, while 'keeper Kevin Horgan will not look back on this game with any fondness.
Some nerves, on this big night on the Dublin football calendar, were to be expected, with 19-year-old defender Darragh Leahy making his debut for Bohs, while five Rovers players (Kevin Horgan, Ethan Boyle, Ally Gilchrist, Greg Bolger and Joel Coustrain) were getting their first taste of this derby.
For Rovers manager Bradley to choose Horgan ahead of Tomer Chencinski was a big call.
He had a quiet start to the night though the home side were, marginally, the better of two nervy-looking teams in the opening stages, a lot of huff and puff with a long wait for the capacity crowd of 3,640 for the game to settle down.
Bohs midfielder Keith Ward had the first shot in anger while Dinny Corcoran should have at least hit the target on 20 minutes when Kevin Devaney's corner kick came his way, but Corcoran managed to hit only fresh air, a hurried effort which was copied later by Rovers men Burke and Brandon Miele.
But in the 23rd minute Rovers took the lead and took a grip on the game. Greg Bolger's free-kick was headed on by Gary Shaw, Burke's acrobatic shot was out of Shane Supple's reach and hit the woodwork, the rebound landing just right for Finn.
The home side were unable to up the tempo as they needed to do, Ward's 32nd-minute free-kick well wide, while they came close to an equaliser on 42 minutes, but Devaney's shot was blocked in the box by debutant Gilchrist.
Corcoran was the Gypsies' leading scorer last season, his goals a key element in their top-five finish, but his touch deserted him again just before half-time.
Having struggled to get into the game, Bohs remained dogged and defiant, hopeful that something could turn for them, finally getting a reward with the equaliser on 73 minutes.
That goal had been coming as Keith Long's men were dangerous, an early warning in the second half when Ward burst into the box and fired a shot wide.
They had their first effort on target on 58 minutes, Horgan saving at close range from Corcoran's volley, impressive teenager Leahy proving the cross, while the arrival off the bench of debutant Eoghan Stokes - a trialist with Rovers as recently as last week - added pep to the Bohs attack.
Bohs drew level on 73 minutes, Casey heading past Horgan from a corner by Ward, while Ward played a part in the goal which put Bohs ahead in the 81st minute, Oscar Brennan and then Ward flicking a long kick by Supple into the path of Paddy Kavanagh whose rising shot gave Horgan no chance.
Horgan was all at sea when Casey popped up again with the home side's third goal of the night, Ward with another assist and another header from Casey.
BOHS - Supple; Pender, Cornwall, Casey, Leahy; Kavanagh, Brennan, Buckley, Devaney (Stokes, 62); Ward (Gannon, 85); Corcoran (Manley, 92).
SHAMROCK R - Horgan; Boyle, Lopes, Grace, Gilchrist; Miele (Carr, 82), Bolger, Finn (McAllister, 75), Coustrain; Burke; Shaw.
REF - P McLaughlin