Shamrock Rovers 1 Bohemians 0
This result means it’s three wins from three for Shamrock Rovers in their derby meetings with Bohemians this term. A perfect record, even if this was an imperfect performance.
Keith Long’s Bohs caused more problems in this fixture than in the other two encounters, yet came away with the same result as Rovers extended their lead at the top of the table to seven points. Manager Stephen Bradley’s celebrations with his staff at the full-time whistle reflected the emotions of his week.
Rovers stepped up their performance levels after the interval to do enough in a decisive spell with Rory Gaffney grabbing the only goal of the game.
Bohs assistant Trevor Croly said in the preliminaries that the Gypsies had probably been too passive on their visit to Tallaght earlier in the season, a fixture that was also settled by a Gaffney strike.
They were a different animal here, asking questions of their hosts from the outset with a positive, aggressive approach. Ciarán Kelly’s suspension and the late loss of Tyreke Wilson to injury meant Long travelled with a patched-up back four with Jordan Flores learning a new position at left-back and midfielder Jordan Doherty in the middle next to Rory Feely.
However, Bohs shifted the focus to the other end with Promise Omochere (left), Ali Coote (right) and central duo Liam Burt and Junior an imposing front four that pegged back the Hoops.
Bradley did acknowledge the crowd for the eighth minute round of applause intended as a message of support for his eight-year-old son who is battling illness, but he needed to quickly get back into game mode with his team enduring a few difficulties. There was a Bohs shout for a red card when last man Seán Kavanagh took down the rampaging Omochere just inside the Rovers half.
Ref Rob Harvey evidently concluded it was too far out to justify the maximum punishment for a professional foul. He was a busy man in the spell that followed, with meaty challenges from both sides requiring careful consideration.
In truth, there was more of them than clear-cut chances. Bradley went with Aaron Greene up front with Gaffney in a more withdrawn role and the best chance of the half did fall to the Hoops when the unmarked Greene steered a Seán Hoare cross off target. Bohs were more dangerous overall, though, albeit without the necessary composure in the final third, snatching at openings that might have yielded a return with a calmer head.
Teams have to make those spells pay in Tallaght, and Rovers emerged looking more like back-to-back league winners. They were ahead inside two minutes, with both Flores and Junior charged for poor marking as Gaffney turned home a Mandroiu header from a Dylan Watts corner. It was sloppy from the Gypsies.
The dead ball was created by Tadhg Ryan’s close-range save from Gaffney and, while Alan Mannus did well to deny Bohs a quick leveller, Rovers twice could have doubled their lead prior to the hour mark with Hoare denied by a goalline clearance before Mandroiu struck woodwork.
Bohs kept probing though and Mandroiu and Watts followed Kavanagh into the book for fouls on Omochere, whose directness and physicality made him a constant source of concern.
It was fitting Omochere came closest to a leveller, his header flashing narrowly wide of the post much to the relief of the majority in the 7,445 attendance. Bohs struggled to create chances of similar quality in the dying minutes and Rovers, who had earlier introduced Seán Gannon in an attempt to nullify Omochere, were able to use their bench to see the game out.
They were more comfortable in the final 15 than they were in the first 15, but there was a real depth of feeling in the reactions on the sideline at full-time. Long – who has had well-publicised clashes with Bradley in recent times – had kind words for his opposite number, a reflection of how some things are bigger than this rivalry.
His team will have to return to the drawing board, with the imminent availability of summer signings needed to give them a push back towards the race for Europe.
Rovers, by contrast, will take on St Patrick’s Athletic on Monday as this year’s European campaign comes into sharp focus. A post-match huddle on the pitch, with the fans chanting the name of their boss, indicated they will have many factors driving them forward.
Shamrock Rovers – Mannus, Hoare, Lopes, Grace; Lyons, Watts, O’Neill, Kavanagh (Gannon 68); Gaffney (McCann 78), Mandroiu (Cotter 88); Greene (Emakhu 78)
Bohemians – Ryan, Murphy, Doherty, Feely, Flores; Devoy, Levingston; Coote (Twardek 70), Burt (Mallon 86), Omochere; Junior
Ref – R Harvey