Finn rises to occasion as Hoops rescue point
Bohemians 1 Shamrock Rvs 1
A rollercoaster of emotions, a red card, and late drama. We've been here before.
For some of the youths on show at Dalymount it was a first taste of a Bohs-Rovers derby, however, and it was the callow souls in the home camp who experienced both extremes in a dramatic final 20 minutes that gave life to this encounter.
After a winter of discontent, Bohs were seconds away from overtaking their bitter rivals, with teenager Keith Buckley believing he had secured victory with a goal on his first home start. How far Bohs' financial fortunes have fallen is illustrated by Buckley's post-match departure to start his shift as a lounge-boy.
Alas, in the third minute of stoppage-time, a Rovers side reduced to 10 men following the dismissal of Gary McCabe for dissent, salvaged a point when Ronan Finn, another derby virgin, rose highest to deliver the final touch to a corner where the presence of his 'keeper Alan Mannus summarised the desperation.
For varying reasons, both sides left the pitch to an ovation, although it remains to be seen if Pat Fenlon's charges will be this close in the table to the hot favourites when they next lock horns.
The first half was a feast of mediocrity with chances few and far between. Michael O'Neill had come into this game with the system and personnel that comprehensively outplayed Sligo in the Setanta Cup. That meant a hybrid 4-3-3 with Dundalk youngster Conor McCormack sitting deeper with Stephen Rice in the engine room, and Finn attempting to roam and pick out the passes.
The hosts had little option but to press high up the field and deny Finn space, a mission they were successful in during the opening quarter of an hour. Ex-Hoop Robert Bayly and the experienced Mark Rossiter were combative, with Killian Brennan and teenager Buckley dropping inside to combat the numerical disadvantage.
Anto Flood tried to lead the line, supported by Buckley's fellow ex-Belvedere youngster Stephen Traynor, both of whom were having a first taste of this tie -- an important step in their education. However, the Gypsies had little to show from a promising spell, with a couple of speculative attempts from Brennan.
The league champions gradually began to establish a foothold as the half progressed, and threatened in the set-piece department with Ken Oman off target with one header before Dean Kelly came a couple of inches closer from a McCormack delivery.
Inspiration was lacking, but the pace of the game stepped up a couple of notches following the resumption, with Rovers taking the initiative. But it was territorial dominance rather than a measured use of the ball, with home centre-halves Aidan Price and Liam Burns untested along the ground.
In fact, it was Bohs who could have gone ahead on a counter-attack inspired by a quickly taken Burns free. Traynor chested to Flood who had time to produce something better than a right-footer that screwed away from goal.
With 20 minutes remaining, Bohs would receive joy from the right flank where the previous opening emanated. After another break, Traynor was taken down outside the area by Stevens, amid vain shouts for a penalty.
Brennan's subsequent free-kick was expertly touched around the post by Mannus, but the danger wasn't averted. Instead, Brennan looped over a corner which Price headed against the bar. The rebound dropped into a mass of bodies and a first touch from Traynor was followed up by a second from Buckley which found its intended destination. The Jodi Stand erupted.
O'Neill sent for Billy Dennehy having earlier introduced McCabe, but the latter's stint on the pitch was shortlived. The Bohs bench had been irate with the match officials throughout, yet McCabe was deemed to have crossed the line when he contested a decision and fired a volley of abuse at assistant referee Marc Douglas. Referee Anthony Buttimer produced a red card.
Nevertheless, despite being a man down, it was Rovers who piled on the pressure with O'Neill withdrawing skipper Dan Murray and sending in extra striker Ciaran Kilduff. It was backs to the wall, with Bohs throwing bodies on the line as the earlier exertions took their toll.
They almost made it to the chequered flag, but succumbed at the death when sub Lee Dixon -- Buckley's replacement -- cheaply gave away possession. Sheppard's energy forced a corner, and the subsequent delivery was steered into the far corner by the head of Finn.
"We should have defended the corner better," said man of the match Heary. "But tonight just goes to show the strides we've made with these young lads."
Whatever the respective circumstances, this show will go on.
Bohemians -- O'Connor, Heary, Burns, Price, O'Brien; Buckley (Dixon 78) Bayly, Rossiter, Brennan; Traynor; Flood (Lodola 89)
Shamrock Rovers -- Mannus, Sullivan, Murray (Kilduff 84), Oman, Stevens; McCormack, Finn, Rice (McCabe 62); Sheppard, Kelly (Dennehy 75); O'Neill.
Ref -- A Buttimer (Cork)