Shamrock Rovers 1-3 Waterford United.
Anyone not present at the start whistle for this game missed Sean Boyd’s wonder goal scored after just 12 seconds or so. Taking the ball up on the right wing, Boyd let fly with a stunning shot that travelled with speed like a bullet into the Waterford net.
That, unfortunately, was to be the highlight of the afternoon from a Hoops viewpoint.
Why, with a stunning midfield of Boyd, Aaron Bolger, Harry Cornally, Richie English and James Doona, they lost the game is something that will, no doubt, be the subject of much review by the club management.
While Stephen Bradley’s intervention at the half time team talk no doubt contributed to a much-improved effort in the second half, they never managed to deliver any decisive blows against a determined Waterford side who worked very hard for each other.
Tunmise Sobowale is a player who has impressed in previous meetings with the Hoops and he certainly didn’t disappoint his club yet again this afternoon. Having taken that early lead, the Hoops were looking good with some neat play. It mightn’t have suited Doona’s style to be playing out on the left but they were creating opportunities that put the Blues defence under pressure.
Waterford, on the other hand, battled right from the start and considering the Hoops’ impressive midfield it was disappointing to see them win so many balls there. It wasn’t until the 32nd minute when they equalised after Owen Wall lobbed Luca Gratzer in goal to make it 1-1.
Six minutes later Wall struck again to put Waterford in front after he cut in on Gratzer’s left and slipped the ball past the Hoops’ keeper. Rovers created some positive stuff at the other end before and after that goal but weren’t managing to make any of it count.
They came out in the second half with a new purpose and dominated for a prolonged period. It was much the same as the first half though with Waterford’s battling qualities helping to protect their lead. Boyd, O’Connor and English all had chances that were close before Waterford increased their lead further in the 70th minute.
For all of their pressure the Hoops had again failed to find the net and when the visitors made their first seriously deep foray into the Hoops’ territory for a considerable time they won themselves a free kick which had the Hoops at odds with themselves and Dara Keane managed to get a decisive shot, despite close attention, and leave Gratzer stranded to make it 3-1. O’Connor went close for Rovers 5 minutes later when he headed over the bar from an English free.
A wonderful piece of play involving Conor Gleeson, Luke Kiely and Adam Doyle saw O’Connor take possession but again he headed over. Disaster struck for the Hoops in the 88th minute when Blues ‘keeper Paul Martin came out to the edge of the box to meet a high incoming ball; the ‘keeper decided to head the ball away and collided with O’Connor who felt he could get in a fair challenge. Referee Paula Brady didn’t see it that way though and when Martin went crashing to the ground she produced a straight red card for the big Hoops’ striker.
Rovers might have displayed the flair and style at Roadstone this afternoon but Waterford produced battling qualities that won them the game.
Shamrock Rovers: 1. Luca Gratzer; 16. Cian Collins, 15. Darragh Gibbons, 21. Sean Callan, 3. Conor Gleeson; 4. Sean Boyd, 8. Harry Cornally, 10. Richie English, 6. Aaron Bolger, 11. James Doona; 9. Michael O’Connor.
Substitutes: 18, Luke Kiely (for Bolger 78 mins), 19. Evan White (for Boyd 78 mins), 17. Adam Doyle (for Doona 67 mins), 7. Emmanuel Lawal (for Cornally 67 mins)