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O'Connor penalty reignites Saints' title charge


SHAMROCK ROVERS fans may have gone to bed last night cursing St Pat's but they woke up this morning in the realisation that their destiny lies in the hands of their rivals from Inchicore.

Barring a miracle, third place and automatic qualification for Europe looks beyond the champions who turned in yet another poor performance in a Dublin derby against a Saints side who have reignited the title race. Rovers look like they will need St Pat's to win the FAI Cup -- but not do the double -- in order to book a Europa League spot.

The locals didn't care as they filtered out of Richmond Park last night with the league back on their agenda. The victory lifts them above Drogheda United into second and, if they beat the Louth side on Friday night, they will close the gap between them and Sligo Rovers to just three points with the Bit O'Red facing Derry City on Saturday.

Liam Buckley's charges are in a rich vein of form and this was their sixth win in eight league games. With five matches, including a trip to the Showgrounds, to go they will retain the belief that the double remains on.

Brian Laws' task in replacing Stephen Kenny never looked an easy one and it is becoming increasingly apparent that the root of the problems the Tallaght side are experiencing are on the pitch, rather than in the dugout as they found themselves 2-0 down inside eight minutes.

The first came from a dubious penalty decision as Sean O'Connor's shot appeared to hit Stephen O'Donnell's arm. There was little the Galwayman could do about it, but Neil Doyle pointed to the spot and O'Connor made no mistake.

A minute later, the Saints doubled their lead when ex-Saint Colin Hawkins' despairing clearance ended up in the roof of his own net.

As the game went on the fight seemed to leave the visitors but then, from nowhere, Gary McCabe pulled a stunning goal back with 14 minutes to go and they rallied.

Gary Twigg watched from the bench as they chased the equaliser, but even though a Carroll clearance came off his own post, the Saints escaped in a frantic eight minutes of injury time.

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Rovers' destiny is in others' hands now.

ST PATRICK'S ATH -- Murphy; O'Brien, Kenna, Flynn, Bermingham; Carroll, Chambers (Coombes 82), Bolger; O'Connor (Meenan 65), Kelly; Fagan (Faherty 73).

SHAMROCK ROVERS -- Jansson; Gannon, Sives, Hawkins, O'Connor; McCabe, Brennan, Finn, O'Donnell (Greene 61), Dennehy; Kilduff.

REF -- N Doyle (Dublin).

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