Shamrock Rovers 3-1 Kerry League
It was just like watching the first team and no surprises when Doona broke the deadlock in the second half when he came in from the left to put the Hoops one up. Lopes scored a cracking for number 2. In case you think we’re gone mad let us explain. The visitors arrived with only a green and white kit so the Hoops had to change to the away kit. The development occurred at a late stage and there was a delay in getting the Hoops onto the pitch for their warm-up as the first team’s away kit was sourced in the stadium and the players and to change. It was understandable then that the Hoops’ management were perplexed when the match officials refused them any extra time to complete the warm up. However, the end result sent them home happy.
It was a game of two halves in the sense that Kerry held their own fairly well in the opening forty-five minutes. Within the first six minutes the Hoops made half a dozen surging runs into the Kerry box but poor finishing let them down. In the opening stages of the game ‘keeper Gavin Bazunu came into action twice to deny big striker Dillon Robinson. The trend continued throughout the half with Rovers enjoying the better moves and opportunities but they were missing their usual clinical edge. Bazunu did a fine job in the 31st minute when he saved from a direct corner from Martin Coughlan. That was Kerry’s finest spell as they forced three successive corners with the pressure only ending when Bazunu made a diving save from John Hayes. Jack Kelly hit the side netting for the Hoops and Conor Behan was provided by Eric Abulu with a fine opportunity which was blocked by Ronan Cahill.
The second half was a different story to the first as the Hoops upped the tempo right from the start. It didn’t take them long to go ahead either. Centre half Adam O’Connor came up the pitch and picked out Dean Williams and the Hoops’ top goalscorer took a shot which was saved wonderfully by Robert Osbourne but Behan was in the right spot to strike it over the line and break the deadlock. Behan was wearing James Doona’s number 22 jersey with name on the back hence the comment in the opening paragraph.
Winger Jack Kelly was lethal on the right; time and again he took the ball to almost the end line before sending it in close to goal. One suspects though Kelly was going for goal himself on some of those occasions and so close was he at times that he very well may have got one himself from those particular efforts.
The second goal came in the 62nd minute when Abulu joined the attack and lobbed the ball in for Thomas Hannon (Lopes!) to beat Osbourne. Kerry substitute Thomas Burke seized on a rare mistake in the Hoops’ defence and had a shot that could have been dangerous but it went over the bar.
Goal number three came in the 74th minute when substitute Evan Smithers, making his return to Tallaght Stadium after a summer lay-off, set Kelly up with a chance from which he successfully converted while on the ground. Bazunu, who once again was a solid influence in goal for the Hoops, was fuming with himself in the 85th minute when Robinson squeezed a header in at the near post to get one back for the visitors.
There was drama in time added on when Williams struck the post, Osbourne then denied Adam Murphy with a quick reaction and Smithers sent it over the bar all in the matter of a couple of seconds.
Overall, the Hoops looked comfortable in this win and with the return of key players at just the right time the next couple of weeks are going to be very interesting for them.
Shamrock Rovers: 25. Gavin Bazunu; 26. Martins Olakanye, 5. Adam O’Connor, 23, Jay Nwanze, 3. Eric Abulu; 32. Jack Kelly, 6. Thomas Hannon, 22. Conor Behan, 2. Darren Prendergast, 11. Kenny Cunningham; 8. Dean Williams.
Substitutes: 17. Rhys Murphy, 4. Andy Spain (for Cunningham 51 mins), 18. Adam Murphy (for Kelly 76 mins), 15. Emmanuel Odeniyi (for Nwanze h.t.), 33. Jordan Tallon (for Hannon 73 mins), 23. Evan Smithers (for Behan 66 mins)
Match report and photos by Robert Goggins.