Saturday 23 March 2019

Last gasp Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk and Cork slip up and sold out matches around the country

League of Ireland Round-Up

Ethan Boyle of Shamrock Rovers, right, celebrates after scoring the winning goal against Waterford with team-mate Dan Carr
Ethan Boyle of Shamrock Rovers, right, celebrates after scoring the winning goal against Waterford with team-mate Dan Carr

A new season is up and running with bumper crowds witnessing the excitement around the country.

Waterford 1-2 Shamrock Rovers

Local lad Ethan Boyle struck an injury-time winner to secure an opening night victory for Shamrock Rovers in front of 4,152 fans at the RSC.

Following a lacklustre first half in which the Blues took the lead against the run of play through Kevin Lynch's sumptuous free-kick, Rovers dominated the second half. Aaron Greene's equaliser seven minutes after the restart was coming and Boyle completed the comeback by volleying through a thicket of bodies in stoppage-time.

The meeting of last year's third- and fourth-placed teams featured a number of new faces, primarily for Waterford.

Alan Reynolds included five of his recruits, including former Ireland defender Damien Delaney at the back and Aaron Drinan, returning to the Blues on loan from Ipswich Town.

It was another arrival who made the first major impact on 22 minutes.

Lynch played alongside Robbie Brady at St Kevin's Boys and the former team-mates share their penchant from deadball skills. When Shane Duggan was tripped 25 yards out, the left-back stepped up to curl an exquisite free-kick over the wall and inside the near post of Alan Mannus.

The Rovers goalkeeper has been unworked up to that point, his opposite number Matt Connor the one having to deal with a series of threats. Dylan Watts was first to test the local stopper after just two minutes as his side-footed effort from 12 yards was batted away.

The big home crowd was almost silenced three minutes later. Jack Byrne's wind-assisted free deceived the Blues backline, yet the unmarked Lee Grace failed to profit by glancing his close-range header wide. Goalscorer Lynch then came to his side's rescue by blocking Carr on the line on the stroke of half-time.

It didn't take long after the break for Rovers to level. Carr was unable to get a clean connection on his shot from Byrne's centre but recovered to square for Greene to tap home.

Chances were traded, with Akinade's volley kept out by Mannus but Aaron McEneff's shot which Connor saved illustrated how the contest was swaying in Rovers' favour.

Late pressure finally told when a corner from the right was turned in by right full-back Boyle, much to the joy of suspended manager Stephen Bradley sitting in the stand.

WATERFORD - M Connor; R Feely, K Browne, D Delaney, K Lynch; Z Elbouzedi, B Héry, S Duggan, J Martin (M Kougan 77); Akinade, A Drinan.

SHAMROCK ROVERS - A Mannus; E Boyle, R Lopes, L Grace, S Kavanagh (T Clarke 75); A McEneff, D Watts (G Bolger 68); J Byrne, R Finn, D Carr; A Greene (O Vojic 75).

Ref - G Kelly (Cork)

St Patrick's Athletic 1-0 Cork City

By Aidan Fitzmaurice

Mick McCarthy may not have spotted any instant recruits for his Republic of Ireland side from his first spying missing on the League of Ireland season in his second spell as national team manager, but he will have come away impressed with the steel shown by a St Patrick's Athletic side who opened the new season with a 1-0 win at home to Cork City, thanks to Mikey Drennan's first-half penalty.

The Liam Buckley-era Saints sides were known for their passing game but often lacked grit, yet Harry Kenny's new-look outfit, with six debutants last night including subs, looked like they knew how to put in a tackle, proof of that in the number of yellow cards handed out.

Prodigal son Chris Forrester, a player who was named in the Ireland squad once by McCarthy's predecessor but remains uncapped, had a relatively quiet night but those around him in the Saints midfield put in an impressive shift. Rhys McCabe and Conor Clifford rans things for the hosts, in a game watched by a healthy crowd of 3,479 as Cork were second best in most areas.

Cork's victory away to St Pat's on the opening day of last season kicked off a three-game winning streak but the balance of power seems to have shifted in the space of 12 months, the opening line-up for the Saints looking more powerful than John Caulfield's starting XI, and there was even a hiccup for City before a ball was kicked as Gearoid Morissey, having been named in the side, dropped out after suffering an injury in the warm-up and Kevin O'Connor was promoted from the bench.

Yet Cork began the game well, with chances falling to debutants James Tilley and Dan Casey in the first 10 minutes as it took the Saints time to find their feet.

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Mikey Drennan of St Patrick's Athletic, left, celebrates with team-mates after scoring the his side's goal. Photo: Sportsfile

They did just that and took the game to the away side, Cork needing a block from Shane Griffin on 11 minutes to keep out an Ian Bermingham volley.

Pats showed they had some steel about them, Conor Clifford and Jamie Lennon booked before half an hour had gone while Kevin Toner would later enter the referee's notebook.

Cork had four new faces in their side, including the returning Kevin O'Connor, but it was ex-UCD man Daire O'Connor who stood out, causing a series of problems on the wing, and his cross on 23 minutes set up Garry Buckley as Pats needed a stunning save from Brendan Clarke to deny Buckley.

The Saints had picked up cards for their tackling but it was a challenge from a Cork man which led to the opening goal, Shane McLoughlin penalised for his tackle in the box on Clifford and Drennan stepped up to take the penalty on 29 minutes.

Twelve months ago Cork looked impressive in the start of their title defence, winning their first three games, but City lacked verve and guile last night, unable to carve out much of note leaving front man Karl Sheppard a passenger for long spells.

Twice in the early stages of the second half they tried, Kevin O'Connor with a free kick on 58 minutes while Daire O'Connor came close on 73 minutes. But City didn't trouble Clarke all that much, the Saints netminder well protected.

Cork have also tried to warn fans in 2019 that it will be a challenge to keep pace with last season's double winners Dundalk and it will take time for their new men to bed in.

They certainly have work to do on last night's evidence and while Pats will be eager to quieten talk of a title run, the early evidence from Harry Kenny's new-look side is impressive. There will be more to come from the Saints once new the faces blend.

PAT'S - B Clarke; Webster, Toner, Desmond; Madden, Lennon, McCabe, Clifford, Bermingham (Coleman 96); Forrester (Shaw 67); Drennan (Miele 83).

CORK - McNulty; McCarthy, Casey, McLoughlin, Griffin; McCormack (Nash 76), Buckley; D O'Connor, K O'Connor (Comerford 71), Tilley (Cummins 61); Sheppard.

Ref - Neil Doyle

Dundalk 1-1 Sligo Rovers

By Daniel McDonnell

The fact that Dundalk started last season with a scoreless draw against a Bray Wanderers team that went on to concede 96 across the campaign was mentioned more than once in the aftermath of this opening-day surprise.

But a winter of change at Oriel Park means that every setback will be analysed.

They had the reassuring presence of Stephen Kenny on the sideline this time last year, whereas new boss Vinny Perth has to prove his own ability now.

His opening night didn't go to plan. The result is one thing; the performance could have yielded a victory on another day with Liam Buckley's Sligo Rovers on the defensive for the bulk of this encounter.

However, the real downer for the natives was the loss of Robbie Benson and Patrick McEleney to injuries that could send the champions back into recruitment mode before next Friday's deadline. Oldham defender Cameron Dummigan was signed earlier in the day.

With so much riding on this year, domestically and in Europe, Dundalk will leave nothing to chance. The early prognosis is that Benson has cracked a fibula, which may require surgery and a long lay-off, while McEleney will wait on the results of a scan on a foot injury. He heard a crack, which wouldn't be encouraging.

Sligo Rovers would love to have their squad depth, and the travelling support celebrated this point because a shortage of bodies has been a feature of their pre-season preparations. This is something for Buckley to build on.

Dundalk had dominated for most of the first half and yet found themselves behind at the break.

It had all started so well. Local spirits were high in the fifth minute when Benson capitalised on a ponderous moment from new Sligo Rovers signing Dante Leverock, dispossessing the Bermudan and scampering into the box where he was taken down by Bit O'Red goalkeeper Ed McGinty in his attempt to skip free.

The celebrations following the penalty award were short-lived as it became apparent that Benson was in a bit of bother and he was carried off on a stretcher following a five-minute delay.

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Patrick McEleney of Dundalk controls the ball ahead of Kyle Callan-McFadden of Sligo Rovers. Photo: Sportsfile

The stoppage gave Patrick Hoban a bit of time to think about what he was going to do, but McGinty had saved a spot kick from Dundalk's leading attacker here last October and repeated the feat by guessing right after the Galwegian's stuttered run-up.

Benson's enforced exit meant a league debut for winter recruit Sean Murray.

After an understandable lull in proceedings, he was involved in two clear-cut goalscoring chances, heading over the bar from a Massey cross before his own pinpoint delivery found Hoban who forced a fine save from the buoyant McGinty.

With McEleney looking sharp in midfield, the visitors were on the rocks with Leverock enduring some shaky moments with his centre-half partner John Mahon actually a steadying influence through a sticky patch. He's a name to note.

Seeing it out until the interval would have represented an achievement for the guests. They went a step further when Chris Shields felled Liam Kerrigan with a clumsy challenge.

With the assistance of the wind, Jack Keaney took aim and beat Gary Rogers at his near post with the subsequent free. The veteran will know he should have done much better.

Dundalk resumed with purpose, however, and levelled before Buckley's charges could take a breather. John Mountney steered a cross towards Hoban and he set it for the inrushing Murray with his right-footer far too good for McGinty.

With the elements technically favouring Dundalk, this should have given them the onus to push on although the carry resulted in some over-hit passes and they began to struggle with it.

They were comfortably the better side, yet Sligo defended their area reasonably well which meant that the better home opportunities came courtesy of shots from the edge of the box.

Murray, Hoban and Sean Gannon were all just marginally off target.

Buckley is not renowned as a manager who comes looking for a draw, but the circumstances of the game meant they had to defend for dear life.

Jamaican attacker Romeo Parkes did squander an opening from a counter. That was a rare break from pressure, though.

The locals grew edgy as the minutes ticked by and when McEleney hobbled off then the anxiety levels grew. Perth sprung in Georgie Kelly as support for Hoban and hoped for the best. But Sligo shut up shop to set up a happy trip home.

Dundalk - Rogers, Gannon, Gartland, Hoare, Massey; Shields, Benson (Murray 11); Mountney (D Kelly 74), McEleney (G Kelly 83), Duffy; Hoban.

Sligo Rovers - McGinty, Dunleavy, Leverock, Mahon, Donelon; Keaney, Callan-McFadden; Twardek, Fordyce (Morahan 83), Kerrigan (Coughlan 86); Parkes.

Ref - R Harvey (Dublin)

Bohemians 1 Finn Harps 0

Dinny Corcoran got Bohemians’ season off to a winning start with the only goal of the game against newly promoted Finn Harps at Dalymount Park.

Though the home side started brightly with newcomer Danny Mandroiu prominent, it was Harps who carved the first opening on 20 minutes.

New signing Daniel O’Reilly met skipper Gareth Harkin’s free kick to see his downward header come back off the butt of a post. Bohemians regained the initiative to finish the half strongly, creating something from nothing on 38 minutes.

The impressive Mandroiu was involved again, setting up Luke Wade-Slater who needed little invitation to shoot narrowly wide from distance. Three minutes later the most incisive move of the half had the the home ahead.

Corcoran initially stepped over Keith Ward’s diagonal pass to allow the ball through for the run of Keith Buckley.

The low cross was then turned home by Corcoran, in off a post.

Harps had keeper Peter Burke to thank on the double just before the hour mark.

First Mandroiu worked a one-two with Ward to force Burke to push a low drive out for a corner.

From Ward’s floated delivery, Rob Cornwall somehow contrived to head wide from just yards out.

A minute after that, skipper Derek Pender’s cross found Ward who saw his shot saved at the post by Burke.

Burke was there again to rescue Harps on 65 minutes, getting down to save Conor Levingston’s tame shot after Mandroiu played in him. Corcoran skied the rebound over the crossbar.

Bohemians: Talbot; Pender, Cornwall, Finnerty, Leahy; Wade-Slater (Swan, 80), Buckley, Levingston, Ward; Mandroiu (Allardice, 90+1); Corcoran (Byrne, 88).

Finn Harps: Burke; Kavanagh, Todd, Logue, O’Reilly; McAleer, Borg (Coyle, 64), Verdon (McNamee, 81), Harkin, Cretaro (Place, 64); Boyle.

Referee: Paul McLaughlin (Donegal)

Derry City 3 UCD 0

DECLAN DEVINE’S second tenure as Derry City boss got off to the perfect start as he watched his new look team dismantle UCD at the Brandywell.

UCD will reflect on defensive errors which cost them dearly in the second half but they were second best throughout with the Candy Stripes the better team.

The opening goal came on 21 minutes when Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe cleverly flicked the ball behind him to the incoming Ciaron Harkin, who then pulled the ball back across goal for David Parkhouse to turn it past Kearns from close range.

The game was put beyond UCD with two goals in ten minutes after the break.

Defender Josh Collins should have stopped Eoghan Stokes’ effort from 40 yards after Kearns was caught out of his goal, but the defender could only slice it into his own net as City were gifted a 2-0 lead.

Derry then killed the game off on 66 minutes as Collins sliced a clearance straight into the path of Harkin, who quickly played in Stokes who turned the ball home from close range with the help of a deflection.

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