Monday 16 September 2019

Jack Byrne scores two screamers as Shamrock Rovers close gap on Dundalk with big victory

Waterford 1 Shamrock Rovers 5

Jack Byrne, right, celebrates with team-mate Ronan Finn of Shamrock Rovers after scoring his side's first goal
Jack Byrne, right, celebrates with team-mate Ronan Finn of Shamrock Rovers after scoring his side's first goal

John Fallon

THIS was the worst possible time for struggling Waterford to face a Shamrock Rovers side with Jack Byrne on an international mission.

The long-range specialist netted a sumptuous brace at the RSC to facilitate the Hoops bridging the gap on leaders Dundalk to four points, albeit with a couple of games more played.

Aaron Greene added a second half double before the Blues pulled one back through Cory Galvin 14 minutes from the end. Teenager Thomas Oluwa added a late fifth for the Hoops at the RSC.

Byrne will hope his latest cameo convinces Mick McCarthy to keep him in his Ireland squad for the Euro 2020 qualifier against Switzerland on September 5.

There appeared to be little threat when Byrne received a pass from Gary O'Neill 30 yards out on 25 minutes but cracked a shot into the top corner.

It took just another five minutes for a replica strike to be unleashed from the right boot of the former Manchester City apprentice.

This time he brushed off the challenge of Tom Holland to get a sight on goal before finding the net with a another dipping piledriver.

Relentless Rovers were helped by couple of defensive blunders. On the hour, JJ Lunney's needless back-pass from the halfway line was pounced upon by Greene and the striker was also left alone to sprint clear nine minutes later to lob the advancing Matt Connor.

Waterford eventually got in on the act of rattling the net from distance.

Galvin showed neat footwork to cut inside and beat Alan Mannus with a 25-yarder before the cushion was restored with a tap-in for Oluwa from Graham Burke's centre.

For Waterford, the season can't end quick enough. This was their fifth successive home defeat, one more than they endured over the entire last season.

Finn Harps, occupying the relegation play-off berth, lurk dangerously behind. Just four points separate them and, while Waterford have a game in hand, it is against Rovers again next Tuesday. In between, there's a long trek to Donegal for Saturday's FAI Cup tie against non-league Glengad United.

Worse still, the big crowds synonymous with their revival since Lee Power's takeover in 2017 are also suffering.

Home games against their Munster rivals Cork City and rivals from their golden era of the 1960s and 70s, Shamrock Rovers, are their most attractive of the season. The pair of fixtures in the early part of the season drew a combined attendance of 6,756. The rematches over the past four days brought less than half that, 2,986, to the Regional Sports Centre.

Rovers, and in particular Byrne, are on a different trajectory.

WATERFORD: M Connor; M Kougan, K Browne, R Slevin; R Feely, S Duggan, JJ Lunney (G Poynton 70), T Holland (S Bone 46), K Lynch (D Walsh 46); C Galvin, W Figueria.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: A Mannus; E Boyle, R Lopes, L Grace; R Finn (B Kavanagh 69), D Watts, G O'Neill, J Byrne, S Kavanagh; A Greene (T Oluwa 76), G Cummins (G Burke 41).

Referee: Rob Harvey (Dublin).

Att: 1283.

Online Editors

The Throw-In: 'Jim Gavin has achieved what Mick O'Dwyer and Brian Cody couldn't do'

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Also in Sport