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Shamrock Rovers 3-0 Hibernians

Hello, and welcome to tonight’s liveblog.

In addition to the second leg, this is arguably Shamrock Rovers’ most important game of the season given the finances at stake — getting through would reportedly take their earnings up from €800,000 to €1.4 million

They have been paired with Maltese side Hibernians, a tie that should be considered winnable if the Irish team are at their best.

The league campaign has been going well — Stephen Bradley’s men are currently top of the table, 10 points ahead of second-place Dundalk, who have two games in hand.

Progression in Europe would be a significant confidence boost in addition to the cash injection it would provide.

It won’t be easy, however, as they are missing some important players including Jack Byrne, Neil Farrugia, Graham Burke and Lincoln-bound Danny Mandroiu.

Kick-off for tonight’s match is at 7.30pm.

Confirmation of the Shamrock Rovers team…

We’re underway…

Shamrock Rovers have started this game on the front foot.

It looks like Hibernians will be content to sit back and soak up the pressure.

As I type, Watts plays through Gaffney, but the striker’s shot from a tricky angle is deflected harmlessly into the goalkeeper’s arms.

Dylan Watts’ cross causes a goalmouth scramble before it’s eventually cleared.

The former Leicester youngster has looked lively in the early stages.

Dylan Watts’ free kick from about 30 yards out deflects wide for a corner.

It’s all Rovers so far.

Watts receives it on the edge of the area and his low shot goes a few inches wide.

The 25-year-old has been heavily involved thus far and is really enjoying having that freedom to roam in midfield.

Gaffney holds it up well and lays it to Gary O’Neill, whose first-time shot goes wide.

Rovers are so dominant that it feels like a matter of time before they score.

Rovers continue to probe.

Hoare has just headed a Watts corner wide.

Gaffney has looked sharp and caused the opposition defence problems with his movement.

The tempo has slowed down to a degree in recent minutes.

Hibernians are looking a little more comfortable now but still lack attacking threat.

Shamrock Rovers take a deserved lead.

Gaffney produces an excellent low cross and Finn times his run perfectly to slot home.

It’s hard to see where Hibernians go from here as they’ve been very negative to begin with.

A rare chance for the visitors.

Degabriele puts a good cross into the box for Diakite, whose header is comfortably saved by Mannus.

Gaffney holds the ball up well before playing Finn in down the right, who is subsequently chopped down.

As a result, Zerafa receives the game’s first yellow card.

Gaffney is the provider again as his low cross is easily converted by the onrushing Watts.

Those players have probably been most Rovers’ most impressive performers thus far.

So half-time and it’s so far so good from a Shamrock Rovers perspective.

The Hoops have been comfortably the better team and the scoreline reflects how dominant they have been.

On the basis of that 45 minutes, it’s hard to see a way back for Hibernians, both in the second half and the tie in general.

Provided they don’t get overly complacent, the Irish side look like they’re heading for the next round, with the influential duo of Rory Gaffney and Dylan Watts the two standout players so far.

They were some concerns about the injuries ahead of the game, but so far the likes of Jack Byrne et al have not been missed.

The second half is underway…

Hibernians have made a change at half-time.

Gabriel Mensah is off and Aruba international Terence Groothusen is on.

Hibernians go close for the first time.

A counter-attack ends with substitute Groothusen unleashing a powerful shot from about 30 yards out that comes back off the crossbar.

Diakite blazes over from the edge of the area.

Hibernians have shown a bit more in this second half, but Rovers are still firmly in control of this tie.

Sean Hoare has to make a last-ditch challenge after Groothusen puts in a low cross that  Thaylor Lubanzadio almost gets on the end of.

Moments later, Degabriele plays an excellent lofted through pass to Lubanzadio, who evades Grace but can only hit the post when through on goal.

That’s a real let-off for Rovers, and the visitors have been much better since half-time.

Shamrock Rovers make a change.

Aaron Greene is replaced by Aidomo Emakhu.

Rory Gaffney is wrestled to the ground by Gabri.

The striker then kicks out at the player as he tumbles to the floor.

Both players get booked as a result of the incident, but the Shamrock Rovers star is a little fortunate it wasn’t red judging by replays.

7,019 is the official attendance according to RTÉ.

That’s great support from the Rovers fans.

jim-mcguinness Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

John O’Shea and former Donegal Football manager Jim McGuinness among the notable faces in attendance tonight.

Hibernians counter threateningly, but Thaylor Lubanzadio overhits the through pass.

Moments later, Finn’s cross is half-cleared, before Watts forces Kone into a decent save from the edge of the area.

That’s surely the tie finished now.

Gaffney plays a one-two with Aidomo Emakhu, whose return takes a slight deflection.

The Galway native then shows great composure to run in on goal and coolly sidefoot it into the corner of the net.

Hibernian will feel he shouldn’t be on the field, but it’s a goal his all-round performance has deserved.

Rovers make a double change just after the third goal.

Sean Gannon and Richie Towell replace Finn and Watts, both of whom have been excellent.

As I type, Gaffney controls Lyons’ cross on his chest, but his subsequent effort is blazed well over.

So close to Rovers making it four.

It’s initially a bursting run by Lyons.

He then plays it to Aidomo Emakhu, who wriggles away from two players before his finish is saved by the legs of Kone.

Rovers make another change.

Gaffney, a strong candidate for man of the match, is replaced by the highly-rated 17-year-old youngster Justin Ferizaj, who is making just his second senior appearance.

As I type, Towell goes down in the area under a challenge but the referee waves play on.

There will be three minutes of stoppage time…

Rory Gaffney has been named the official man of the match by RTÉ.

So that’s that.

Barring an absolute disaster in the second leg, Shamrock Rovers are heading for the next round.

They will head to Malta next week with a commanding three-goal lead.

The Hoops were much the better side in the first half, while the visitors came back into it in the second half and provided the hosts’ defence with a few nervy moments.

However, overall Stephen Bradley’s men were well worth the victory.

Ronan Finn, Dylan Watts and man of the match Rory Gaffney stood out, though every Rovers player looked solid, while Ireland U17 midfielder Justin Ferizaj enjoyed an eye-catching cameo in the dying minutes on just his second senior appearance.

Right, that’s all from me for now.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

We’ll have more reaction on the site shortly.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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