Rovers move up gears to kill off Shels' hopes
SHELBOURNE 0 SHAMROCK Rvs 3
Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers have shared homes and battled for titles but they operate on different levels now and it showed at Tolka Park last night.
It took Stephen Bradley’s Hoops time to crank into gear but a quickfire brace after the interval killed off their First Division opponents to book a place in the quarter-finals of the FAI Cup.
Their cup specialist tag is a bit of a running joke at this stage considering their last success in the competition came in 1987, the year when their Milltown stay was ended controversially.
Tolka was where they pitched up next to kick off two decades of uncertainty where their rivals in the ‘Ringsend Derby’ enjoyed periods of dominance.
Shels are a much diminished force now, though, with doubts hanging over their future and a section of their hardcore followers miffed by a proposed move to Dalymount Park. They could do with the kind of backing from fans and investors that is allowing Rovers to grow again.
That is optimistic talk at this remove.
The game was preceded by a minute’s applause for Ollie Byrne who passed away ten years ago this week and it’s fair to say that the Shels lifer would have enjoyed the combative approach adopted by the hosts if not their underdog status.
Owen Heary – who had Shels legend Stephen Geoghegan next to him on the bench – sent out a well-drilled side that restricted Stephen Bradley’s side to very few chances in the opening 45 minutes. Rovers had their moments, with crosses that bobbled around the box into dangerous positions but home ’keeper Dean Delany’s only major contribution before the interval was to parry away a close-range Roberto Lopes effort.
Otherwise, the struggling First Division side generally succeeded in keeping their old rivals at arm’s length.
Heary did change things at the break with number ten Chris Lyons replaced by the more defensive-minded David O’Leary. Within two minutes, Rovers were ahead.
Given their earlier struggles, it was impressive how easy they made it look with Burke – who was dangerous throughout – shifting to the right of the penalty area and executing a pass that Brandon Miele threaded into the bottom corner.
Shels’ plans were out the window and while they did strike the woodwork in a frantic scramble from a free-kick in the aftermath, Rovers killed the game off with their next break.
Left full Trevor Clarke is a potent attacking threat and he sprinted unchallenged through red shirts before squaring for Burke who had plenty of time to control and pick his spot with his left foot.
In truth, that was the end of the contest, much as Shels kept pressing away with some backing from their followers in a venue that was livelier than it would be on an average First Division night.
Rovers were comfortable, though, and enjoying the space created by Shels becoming a little bit more stretched. Striker Gary Shaw embarked on an ambitious solo run that was only thwarted by Delany, a moment that illustrated the Hoops’ swagger.
They applied gloss to the scoreline with a quarter of an hour remaining when good work from makeshift right full Dave Webster culminated in sub James Doona converting from six yards.
The only sour note for the Hoops was a daft sending-off for Ronan Finn who picked up a second yellow card after ref Rob Rogers pulled him up for a dive at the edge of the box.
Shelbourne – Delany, Browne, Prendergast, Collins, S Byrne (Kavanagh 59); A Byrne, Hughes; English, Lyons (O’Leary 45), Evans; Doyle (Rooney 71)
Shamrock Rovers – Chencinski,Webster, Lopes, Grace, Clarke; McAllister, Finn; Connolly, Burke, Miele (Bolger 76); Shaw (O’Connor 78)
Ref – R Rogers (Dublin)