Bolger delivers 85th-minute winner to send impressive Shamrock Rovers seven points clear

Stephen Bradley’s side have now won six of their opening eight games in the Premier Division this season.

Bolger celebrates his late goal in Ballybofey on Friday night.
Bolger celebrates his late goal in Ballybofey on Friday night.
Image: Evan Logan/INPHO

Finn Harps 0

Shamrock Rovers 1

Shaun Keenan reports from Finn Park

A LATE STRIKE from Greg Bolger five minutes before the end sent Shamrock Rovers seven-points clear at the top of the SSE Airtricity League, breaking Finn Harps hearts in Ballybofey.

Stephen Bradley’s instructions were clear heading into Friday night’s clash on the road to Finn Park as the Hoops boss sensed a real opportunity from the timing as a win in Donegal tonight would put Rovers convincingly ahead of their closest challengers Dundalk, despite the champions having two games in hand.

Friday’s fixture was the only league match played on the night, with the rest of the Irish calendar postponed due to the extent of U21 call-ups at international level.

As Ollie Horgan watched from the stands, his well-drilled young side more than held their own against high-calibre opponents, begetting a couple of chances of their own.

Daniel O’Reilly Finn Harps defender Daniel O'Reilly controls the ball. Source: Evan Logan/INPHO

Nathan Boyle fed in Colm Deasy for the inviting-cross along the danger area but Alan Manus claimed adequately.

Midway through the first half, the Rovers pressure-cooker continued as Watts, from the edge of the area, fired one from distance forcing Gallagher into action.

With Jack Byrne in Gibraltar with the Ireland senior squad and Brandon Kavanagh and Trevor Clarke involved in the U21 panel, Rovers resumed business as usual.

With the Donegal side nearing the break unscathed, Finn Park held their breath when Watts produced a sublime long ball to Greene but the former Bray Wanderers forward miscontrolled the ball to give Gallagher an easy collection.

An early warning was issued to Harps after the break, Greene unlocking Horgan’s defensive steel but the assistant referee, providing Harps with their get out of jail free card, ruled for offside.

Aaron Greene and Ronan Finn celebrate after the game Rovers captain Ronan Finn applauds the travelling supporters at Finn Park after full-time. Source: Evan Logan/INPHO

The Ballybofey side had faltered in recent games, struggling to match the intensity and hard-nosed doggedness and it proved costly once more for Friday’s game.

It wasn’t for the lack of effort, in fact, Harps soaked up much of Rovers heavy influence.

But any anxieties Horgan harboured about his team switching off were realised in the 85th minute.

The Hoops began to turn the screw and it paid dividends when Greg Bolger’s effort from the edge of the 18-yard flew beyond Gallagher to send the boisterous Rovers faithful into a frenzy.

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Regardless of the timetable, Bradley’s side demonstrated the determination required for title credentials.

FINN HARPS: Ciaran Gallagher; Colm Deasy, Daniel O’Reilly, Jacob Borg (Raf Cretaro 68), Kieth Cowan; Coalan McAleer, Nathan Boyle (Mikey Place 81), Mark Coyle, Sam Todd, John Kavanagh; Niall Logue

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Alan Manus; Roberto Lopez, Lee Grace, Greg Bolger, Dylan Watts; Ronan Finn, Dan Carr (Orhan Vojic 75), Aaron McEneff (Joel Coustain 65), Sean Kavanagh, Aaron Greene (Sam Bone 87); Joey ‘Brien

Referee: Derek Tomney

Murray Kinsella and Andy Dunne dissect Ireland’s disappointing Six Nations campaign, and discuss the pros and cons of rugby’s new law proposals in the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly:

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About the author:

Shaun Keenan

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