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Rovers complete unbeaten campaign and consign Shels to playoff

Jack Byrne and Aaron Greene ensured the Hoops kept defeat out of their Covid-curtailed season.

Aaron Greene nets his side's second at Tolka.
Aaron Greene nets his side's second at Tolka.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Shelbourne 0

Shamrock Rovers 2

Darryl Geraghty reports from Tolka Park

CHAMPIONS SHAMROCK ROVERS, having been the last club to achieve the same feat, became the first side in 93 years to go the League season unbeaten as they earned a hard fought 2-0 win away at Shelbourne, and in doing so condemned their Dublin rivals to the playoff position.

It had been seven years since the pair had done battle on the hallowed turf and there was a lot on the line.

It was the host that started brightly, looking solid in their 4-2-3-1 and with just eight minutes on the clock the home side thought they had snatched an all important lead. Karl Sheppard rose unchallenged to nod home a brilliantly whipped in Dale Roney free kick, but their joy immediately turned to frustration when the flag went up.

This seemed to have awoken the beast, and the visitors began to move the ball with more intent, and just minutes later fashioned a glorious chance to break the deadlock. Both Aaron Greene and Aaron McEneff had strikes from inside the area bravely blocked in quick succession as Shels bodies were put bravely on the line.

Midway through the first half the visitors got the breakthrough their dominance deserved, and it was a moment of incredible quality from that man Jack Byrne.

Picking the ball up in midfield, the Irish International nutmegged Gary Deegan with his first touch, then drove on unchallenged to the edge of the area smashing the ball low in off the post.

The hosts, battling for their automatic survival in the SSE Premier Division, and knowing that even a draw might suffice in avoiding the dreaded playoff, just couldn’t muster up a chance on Alan Mannus goal or keep enough possession to get into the final third, much to the frustration of Ian Morris.

Rovers, looking to remain undefeated for the season, something Stephen Bradley and his talented troops were very eager to achieve, saw out the first half in comfortable fashion, as The Reds struggled to get close to the constant rotating f the midfield carousel that was the Hoops midfield. And as things stood, at the break, Shelbourne found themselves in the dreaded ninth position.

After a brave start to the second half the home side, trying their damndest to build up a head of steam, unfortunately suffered a sucker punch when Aaron Greene doubled the visitors’ lead. Dylan Watts sprayed a quick ball out to Sean Kavanagh on the left wing, who then delivered a low cross to the near post for his front man to prod home.

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Despite the wind being knocked out of their sails, Shels kept plugging away and refused to let their heads drop. They continued to look a threat from set-pieces and With 15 minutes remaining missed a gilt edged chance to haul themselves back in the game when substitutes Alex Cetiner and Aaron Dobbs combined well on the break.

Cetiner was set clear down the right wing and found ex-Shamrock Rovers man Dobbs at the back post with a deep cross, but the ex-Shamrock Rovers man could only volley his tame effort into the ground and agonizingly just inches over the bar.

What little hope remained of forcing a result, drained away from The Reds, when talismanic midfielder Gary Deegan was shown a second yellow card for a late challenge on Graham Burke with five minutes remaining on the clock.

Frustration continued to get the better of the home side with Dan Byrne flying in on Danny Lafferty, and was lucky to get escape with just a booking.

This result, coupled with Finn Harps home win against Waterford, ensured the two sides swap places and in what seemed unlikely just a couple of weeks ago, means the Drumcondra outfit now face a huge make or break play-off game against Longford Town and will have to do it without their influential skipper Deegan.

Shelbourne FC: Jack Brady, Mark Byrne, Alex O’Hanlon, Dan Byrne, Oscar Brennan, Gary Deegan, Sean Quinn (Brian McManus, 47’), Karl Sheppard (Alex Centiner, 60’), Shane Farrell, Dale Rooney (Aaron Dobbs, 60’), Ciaran Kilduff

Subs: Colin McCabe, Karl Moore, Brian McManus, Aaron Dobbs, Aidan Friel, Daniel O’Reilly, Alex Centiner

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus, Rhys Marshall, Lee Grace, Dylan Watts, Aaron Greene, Aaron McEneff, Sean Kavanagh (Danny Rafferty, 76’), Liam Scales, Graham Burke (Dean Williams, 85’), Joey O’Brien, Jack Byrne (Ronan Finn, 63’)

Subs: Leon Pohls, Danny Lafferty, Ronan Finn, Max Murphy, Dean Williams, Darragh Nugent, Thomas Oluwa

Referee: Rob Harvey

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