Dublin: 3°C Thursday 2 December 2021

Graham Burke hits winner off bench as Rovers move one game away from title

The striker took just three minutes to score following his second-half introduction.

Shamrock Rovers’ Graham Burke.
Shamrock Rovers’ Graham Burke.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Shamrock Rovers 1

Longford Town 0

Dave Donnelly reports from Flancare Park

GRAHAM BURKE PRODUCED a star turn off the bench as he notched his ninth goal of the season to move Rovers within a game of a second successive title.

The striker started and finished the move for what proved to be the matchwinning goal within three minutes of his introduction just past the hour.

Indeed, Rovers could seal the title without playing again as St Patrick’s Athletic need at least a draw at home to Dundalk on Monday night to stay mathematically in the hunt.

It was rough justice on the home side who, despite having been relegated with several games to spare, have provided Rovers with some of their toughest games.

At least, in this case, Rovers had the good manners not to leave it so late – their other three games with Longford have ended with winners in the 92nd, 95th and 96th minutes.

There was little to love about the performance from the champions-elect, who dominated possession throughout but struggled to break down a dogged Longford outfit.

The 269 supporters who made the trip from Dublin – 320 tickets were sold but 50-odd didn’t make it to the ground – were in festive humour and let off fireworks before and after the game.

It made up for a lack of fireworks on the field where, for all their possession, Rovers didn’t create a clearcut chance until Burke cut them open with 25 minutes remaining.

The best chance of a dire, windswept first half in torrential rain fell to Longford as Rob Manley showed brilliant intent to force his way past Lee Grace and into the box.

Manley had only Alan Mannus to beat, but he overran the ball enough to allow the keeper to save, and the Belfast man sprung up to spectacularly save Aodh Dervin’s follow-up.

Rovers’ first shot on target came moments later as Rory Gaffney aimed a tame effort at Lee Steacy, and it would be midway through the first chance before they had another.


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Burke provided the incisive pass to release Gaffney on the right, and he laid it on a plate for another sub, Danny Mandroiu, but he was brilliantly denied at point-blank range by Steacy.

There was nothing the keeper could do about the follow-up, however, as Burke continued his run into the box and stabbed the ball past the helpless keeper.

Longford still should have taken something from the game as Longford became more adventurous in the final quarter.

Manley had the chance of the game as he found himself unmarked from Dylan Grimes’ corner kick, but he somehow headed over with the entire goal gaping.

Longford Town: Lee Steacy; Shane Elworthy, Aaron O’Driscoll, Mick McDonnell, Ben Lynch; Dean Zambra (Aaron McCabe 84), Aaron Robinson (Karl Chambers 88), Aodh Dervin; Aaron McNally (Aaron Dobbs 72), Dylan Grimes (Callum Warfield 88), Rob Manley.

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Gannon, Sean Hoare, Joey O’Brien; Ronan Finn (Lee Grace 23), Richie Towell (Graham Burke 62), Chris McCann, Neil Farrugia (Danny Mandroiu 62); Aidomo Emakhu (Dylan Watts 62), Aaron Greene, Rory Gaffney (Dylan Duffy 90+3).

Referee: Adriano Reale (Kildare).

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