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Shamrock Rovers come from behind to grab last-gasp winner in Waterford

Ethan Boyle was the hero for the Hoops at the RSC.
Feb 15th 2019, 9:56 PM 7,150 11

Ethan Boyle celebrates scoring Ethan Boyle celebrates after scoring the winning goal for Shamrock Rovers. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Waterford 1
Shamrock Rovers 2

Paul Dollery reports from the RSC

AN INJURY-TIME GOAL from Ethan Boyle got Shamrock Rovers off to a winning start in dramatic circumstances this evening at the expense of Waterford.

Boyle fired home from a Jack Byrne corner in the 92nd minute to secure all three points for Rovers, who trailed at the break following a stunning debut goal from Waterford left-back Kevin Lynch. Aaron Greene levelled the game early in the second half, before Boyle grabbed a last-gasp winner.

Both managers were absent from the touchline at a packed RSC. Due to outstanding suspensions carried over from last season, Alan Reynolds and Stephen Bradley watched an entertaining encounter from the stands along with 4,152 spectators.

The Dublin side created the majority of the game’s goalscoring opportunities and were worthy winners. A gutsy performance from Waterford — for whom goalkeeper Matthew Connor was superb — was almost enough to give the home side a share of the spoils.

Shane Duggan and Ronan Finn Waterford's Shane Duggan tangles with Ronan Finn of Shamrock Rovers. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

The contest was impacted considerably by a relentless wind which Rovers had at their backs in the opening period, when Connor frequently watched his goal-kicks dragged back inside his own half by the force of the elements. The RSC’s in-house anemometer — Bastien Hery’s hair — indicated that it was approaching gale-force.

The visitors handed full debuts to their two most notable winter additions, former Derry City midfielder Aaron McEneff and ex-Ireland U21 playmaker Jack Byrne. Once a highly-regarded prospect at Manchester City, Byrne is back on home soil in a bid to give his career a long-overdue kickstart.

The Waterford squad underwent significant change during the off-season, as evidenced by the fact that just four members of the team selected for tonight’s game started in their final outing of the 2018 campaign.

In his first competitive outing for the club, Damien Delaney wore the captain’s armband in a defence that also included fellow newcomer Kevin Lynch. Midfielders Shane Duggan and Zach Elbouzedi were given their full Waterford debuts too, while Aaron Drinan started up front after returning to the Blues this week on loan from Ipswich Town.

Rovers had Waterford under pressure from the outset, with Connor called into action on three separate occasions inside the opening four minutes. First he made a good stop to deny Dylan Watts following a fine run by Byrne. After keeping out a well-struck Sean Kavanagh free-kick, Connor then saved from Ronan Finn, who had robbed Delaney of possession.

Kevin Lynch bends the ball past Alan Mannus to score Kevin Lynch scores for Waterford. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

In spite of their wind-assisted territorial supremacy throughout the first half, Rovers found themselves behind at the break. Waterford hit the front on 22 minutes when Duggan was fouled by Watts. At least 25 yards out from goal, Lynch executed his free-kick to perfection to the delight of the vocal home support.

As the Hoops went in search of an equaliser, the majority of the action continued to occur in the vicinity of Connor’s goal. The Blues goalkeeper made further saves from McEneff and Finn, before doing extremely well to deal with a long-range strike from Watts which took an awkward bounce.

Jack Byrne showed several glimpses of his vast potential during open play, but the 22-year-old Dubliner’s set-piece deliveries were particularly threatening. One of them almost engineered a levelling goal for the Tallaght outfit in the 26th minute. Byrne’s inviting free-kick into the box found Lee Grace, but his header went narrowly wide.

Having opened the scoring for his new club earlier in the game, Lynch made an important contribution at the opposite end late in the first half by making a crucial block to divert Dan Carr’s goalbound effort away from the target.

Waterford had a penalty claim dismissed on the half-hour mark when Drinan went to ground following a corner, but the closest they came to doubling their advantage was in first-half injury time. Izzy Akinade fired off a shot from a narrow angle, which cannoned off Alan Mannus’ near post.

Jack Byrne Jack Byrne of Shamrock Rovers. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Nine minutes after the restart, Rovers were back on level terms. Carr sent a half-volley across the face of Waterford’s goal, allowing Greene to apply the finish. 

While Rovers still had the better of the exchanges, Waterford often posed threats of their own. Rovers defender Roberto Lopes almost scuffed an attempted clearance into his own net while under pressure from Drinan. Akinade then forced Mannus to make a save when he brilliantly connected with a volley following some excellent work by Rory Feely.

At the other end, Connor was again on hand to deny Greene and substitute Trevor Clarke, who returned to action following the long-term knee injury he suffered here last year. Rovers sprung Austrian debutant Orhan Vojic from the bench and he squandered a fine chance after Connor parried a drilled strike from McEneff.

However, they snatched the victory with the last action of the game, unsurprisingly as a result of a Jack Byrne dead ball. His corner from the right fell to Boyle, who connected on the volley to spark raucous scenes in the away end, as several Rovers fans invaded the pitch to celebrate a winning start to the 2019 season for Stephen Bradley’s side. 

WATERFORD: Matthew Connor; Rory Feely, Kenny Browne, Damien Delaney, Kevin Lynch; John Martin (Maxim Kouogun, 77), Bastien Hery, Shane Duggan, Zach Elbouzedi; Aaron Drinan, Izzy Akinade.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Alan Mannus; Ethan Boyle, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Sean Kavanagh (Trevor Clarke, 75); Aaron McEneff, Dylan Watts (Greg Bolger, 68); Jack Byrne, Ronan Finn, Dan Carr; Aaron Greene (Orhan Vojic, 75).

Referee: Graham Kelly 

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