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Shamrock Rovers lose ground in title race in Tallaght thriller

Shamrock Rovers 2

Sligo Rovers 2


Graham Burke scores a penalty for Shamrock Rovers

Graham Burke scores a penalty for Shamrock Rovers

Graham Burke scores a penalty for Shamrock Rovers

It was honours even in the battle of the Rovers but both camps will spend the weekend assessing the damage from this thrilling draw that left both managers with plenty to mull ove .

Sligo boss Liam Buckley will wonder how his side failed to make the most of a 2-0 lead and were ultimately lucky to come away with a point, while the home side will analyse how they had to rely on two gifts, one a penalty and the other an own goal, to scrape a point in a game where they had enough chances to win many times over.

That bizarre own goal by Adam McDonnell nine minutes from time drew the hosts level and while there was endless value for money for a crowd of 4,513, the champions will know that this was two points dropped in a title defence that has already hit some speed bumps. However, Sligo keeper Ed McGinty once again underlined his credentials as the best No 1 in the league, frustrating the champions again and again.

The Hoops admitted in the build-up to this game that a defeat at home to Sligo last year was both a low point of their domestic season but also the result that  sparked a revival that led to the retention of their title. With that in mind there was a natural wariness, even fear, of Sligo.

And yet based on the opening exchanges in Tallaght, a home win looked to be in the making as Stephen Bradley's side owned the ball early but could not convert, then paying the price when Sligo burst forward and into the lead on 18 minutes. A clever ball into the box from Max Hamilton teed up a duel between William Fitzgerald and Sean Hoare but the Sligo man easily got the better of that battle, beating Alan Mannus with a header for his second goal of the season.

On 30 minutes, Sligo were 2-0 up after a dreadful error from Barry Cotter as his back pass went right into the path of Aidan Keena and the most in-form striker in the league would make no mistake, slotting home his second goal in a week and sixth in six games.

Bradley’s reaction to the first-half lethargy was a double substitution, Jack Byrne added in to pull the strings but it was a slip by Sligo which got them back into the game as Adam McDonnell was penalised for a trip on Andy Lyons in the box on 62 minutes, and Graham Burke converted the penalty. Sligo keeper MGinty pulled off save after save to frustrate the champions but Sligo then had another self-inflicted blow, the luckless McDonnell trying to clear away Lee Grace’s header, from a Byrne corner, in the box but he somehow hooked the ball over the line and into his own net with nine minutes left.

Sensing that Sligo had lost their verve, the Hoops tested their nerve with a siege on the away side’s goal but McGinty was better protected in that last phase and a frustrated home side had to settle for a draw, and  more ground lost to league leaders Derry City.  

SHAMROCK R- Mannus; Grace, Lopes, Hoare; Lyons, Watts (Towell 75), O’Neill (Byrne 46), Cotter (Farrugia 46); Mandroiu (Greene 63), Burke; Gaffney (Emakhu 63).

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SLIGO – McGinty; Banks, Buckley, Pijnaker, Kirk; O’Sullivan (Horgan 68), McDonnell, Morohan (Blaney 88), Fitzgerald (Byrne 88); Hamilton (Cawley 78); Keena (Mata 68).

REF – Derek Tomney

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