Shamrock Rovers 2-1 Waterford F.C.
It started as it ended. This game predictably lived up to expectations with both sides going for it right from the start. Only a late strike from Dean Williams won the day for the Hoops.
Kian Clarke in goal for Rovers was outstanding. Busier than he would have liked to have been, the Ireland U17 international hardly put a foot wrong, indeed a hand wrong. He made a brilliant stop on Shane Griffin’s penalty in the 38th minute but the Waterford man was ever so quick to react and slammed the loose ball to the net.
The scene was set as early as the first minute after Darragh O’Connor impeded Colm Whelan just outside the box – that brought Clarke into action swiftly as he saved the resultant free. That was followed a couple of minutes later when a fantastic run by Eric Abulu all the way through the Waterford half allowed Emmanuel Lawal to bring off a fine save from Blues’ keeper Paul Martin.
The visitors were taking this game to Rovers by showing a high level of confidence to not only squeeze play upfield but to continuously seek to dictate it. The Hoops took the lead on the half hour mark Lawal provided Luke Kelly with the ball and the striker in turn slipped it out to Thomas Oluwa on the left to hit a neat slicing ball worthy of a great finish.
Waterford equalised in the 38th minute and although they had been playing well it has to be said there was a touch of good fortune about the moment as Sean Callan was deemed to have given the penalty away. As stated above, Clarke made the save but couldn’t stop the rebound. Clarke was on his game throughout and was quick to race off his line in the 55th minute to deny Sean Roche the possibility of doing some damage after a defensive error on the part of the Hoops let the Blues’ man in.
Two minutes later the industrious Richie English, in the middle of the park for Rovers, let fly with a tremendous shot that Martin saved at the expense of a corner.
On the hour mark Waterford created another promising move when, following a brief spell of intense pressure from Rovers, Griffin sent the ball across the box but Roche just couldn’t connect with it.
Cian Collins was only on one minute when he won a corner from which Sean Callan glanced the ball just over the bar.
There was a decisive moment in the 84th minute when Clarke managed to use his right leg in an instant to save from Whelan’s strike. A minute later Williams was annoyed with himself as he thought he should have finished off the move after Shane Nealon fed him with the ball. However, Williams was to have the final say five minutes later. Nealon won a corner and from the pressure that followed O’Connor won the header from which Williams weaved his way through the Blues’ defence to make contact with and strike for what proved to be the winner.
Shamrock Rovers: 1. Kian Clarke, 2. Darren Prendergast, 24. Darragh O’Connor, 18. Sean Callan, 3. Eric Abulu, 10. Richie English, 8. Harry Cornally (C), 17. Emmanuel Lawal, 9. Thomas Oluwa, 21. Luke Kelly, 19. Dean Williams.
Substitutes: 25. Adam Kenny, 16. Cian Collins (for Cornally 76 mins), 4. Adam O’Connor, 5. Conor Gleeson, 6. Evan White, 20. Conor Behan, 11. Shane Nealon (for Kelly 76 mins).
Report and photos by Robert Goggins.
More pics by George Kelly here.