Ryan Byrne/INPHO Stephen Bradley and his son Josh celebrate as Ronan Finn lifts the Premier Division title.
Andy Lyons and Rory Gaffney combine to kickstart Shamrock Rovers' title party in style
The Hoops beat Derry City 1-0 and will get their hands on the Premier Division trophy for a record 20th time tonight.

Shamrock Rovers 1
Derry City 0

RORY GAFFNEY MADE it a Perfect 10 for a season that looks set to be dominated by Shamrock Rovers in more ways than one.

They knew they would get their hands on the Premier Division trophy regardless of the outcome here, and a 1-0 win over Derry City ensured their unbeaten home record lasted the entire campaign.

Only the couple of hundred visiting fans wouldn’t have hung around for the post-match fanfare, on a night which began with a guard of honour for the champions from the runners up, and a club-record 7,726 came through the turnstiles in D24.

It seemed fitting that the 38th minute strike to break the deadlock would be created and completed by the two men likely to add the gloss to a fine team campaign by collecting the individual gongs.

Gaffney tapped home his 10th league goal from close range but, such has been his all-round contribution leading the Rovers line he must have the edge over top scorer Aidan Keena of Sligo on 17.

His tenacity, technique and work ethic makes him the complete package.

And at 33 – he celebrated that birthday last Sunday – he is more than 10 years older than the man who made the goal with sublime skill and creativity.

roberto-lopes-leads-out-his-team-as-derry-form-a-guard-of-honour Ryan Byrne / INPHO Runners-up Derry City give champions Shamrock Rovers a guard of honour prior to kick-off. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Andy Lyons turned 22 in August and will begin a new chapter in his career when he heads to Blackpool in the English Championship once Rovers’ Europa Conference League campaign is over next week.

Any of their following tuning in for a glimpse of their latest signing would have been purring as they watched Lyons jink by Patrick McEleney on the left touchline before skinning Ronan Boyce with a stop-start shimmy to cross for Gaffney.

It’s moments like that from the former Bohemians defender that will see him bid farewell to the Rovers faithful after one season with his first league winners’ medal and – most likely – the nod from his fellow professionals as the young player of the year.

rory-gaffney-celebrates-scoring-a-goal-with-teammates Bryan Keane / INPHO Rovers players celebrate their opening goal. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

This was his Tallaght farewell and maybe back in May it might not have seemed as if it the title would be wrapped up with two games to spare.
When Derry came here five months ago their performance for the guts of an hour marked them out as genuine title contenders.

Rovers found a way that night, Danny Mandroiu netting the winner with 11 minutes to go, and didn’t allow the Candystripes’ strength to turn into a proper grip on the contest.

The same went for the title race, especially in the weeks that followed.

While Bradley had to contend with losing his goal scorer from that win, Mandroiu signing for Lincoln City soon after, the depth was sufficient to ensure their Europa Conference League campaign didn’t derail their three-in-a-row bid.

Derry took just two points from the four games that followed their previous visit here and it was that summer of discontent that Ruaidhri Higgins saw his coming force show their vulnerabilities.

Back in mid-May the gap was four points when Rovers came out on top, Derry’s draw in Sligo on Monday handed the Hoops the title with a seven-point lead and two to play.

This contest, naturally, had a dead rubber feel despite the party atmosphere in the stands.

Derry have a FAI Cup final with Shelbourne in a fortnight and, while European football has been secured with their second-place finish, silverware in Higgins’ first full season in charge will be the ideal ending before resuming battle next year.

But this was Gaffney’s Perfect 10, and Rovers’s three-in-a-row party.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Cleary, Lopes (c), Grace; Farrugia (Burke 76), Hoare (O’Neill 86), Kavanagh (Towell 85), Towell (Byrne 76), Ferizaj (Gannon 57), Lyons; Gaffney.

Derry City: Maher; Boyce (Thomson 74), Connolly, S McEleney, McJannett; Diallo, Dummigan; McEleney, Patching (Graydon 74), Duffy (Kavanagh 74); McGonigle (Akintunde 74).

Referee: R Harvey.

Attendance: 7,726.

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