Shamrock Rovers in cruise control at UCD to extend their lead at the top of the Premier Division


This 7:45 p.m. kick-off was completed as a competition before the 8:00 p.m. newscasts ended. Sometimes it’s too easy for Shamrock Rovers in this league, a complaint that’s a compliment.

In the early stages of their title fight last year, the Hoops needed a string of late goals against much weaker teams. Three of their four meetings with Longford Town, the Premier Division’s worst team, were decided by Rovers’ added-time efforts.

UCD are favorites for the position this season and Stephen Bradley’s side were twice ahead in 17 minutes and had another by half-time. From the start it was really just a matter of “how many?”.

Jack Byrne is a huge help to Bradley’s charges in games of this nature. Against underdogs his quality stands out by miles, the ability to slip into space and pick a pass before the other team can react. Even when they’re deep, Byrne has the precision to pick the lock.

In his first major contribution of the game, the Ireland international slipped into space and saw an opportunity to float an inviting ball past the back post which allowed Barry Cotter to pass John Ryan and convert a header past home keeper Kian Moore. who was perhaps a little stubborn about his starting position.

Andy Myler had started with three central defenders and two full-backs, bringing it closer to a back five. You probably wanted to be solid at the beginning and stay in the game as long as possible.

Instead, they conceded again just after the quarter-hour when Rory Gaffney, the Rovers central striker, wandered to the left and executed an excellent pass from the outside which Danny Mandroiu extended to slide past Moore.

It was already to be assumed that the three-in-a-row Seekers Hoops would be seven points clear at the top of the table.

What they had to avoid for the rest of the game was drama – and they didn’t quite succeed in that. Byrne and Mandroiu were both yellowed for fouls; an unlikely duo punished for this reason.

The real stress for the away bench came when Byrne went off the ball and clutched his right leg. He was able to get up and go to the sidelines for a medical and the sensible decision was to withdraw the 26-year-old, with Aaron Greene introduced in his place.

Rovers boss Bradley later confirmed the injury was not serious.

Greene made an immediate impact and sent in the cross, which was converted by Gaffney from close range. By this point the celebrations of the clear Rovers majority in the 1,676 crowd were borderline.

Bradley was able to switch heights at half-time and continued experimenting afterwards when rookie Kieran Cruise was called off the bench and left-sided Neil Farrugia switched to right-back to see if a cut to his preferred foot is possible for him as well advantageous as for Andy Lyons on the left.

This is a work in progress, but it was difficult to draw firm conclusions from this discrepancy.

UCD: Moore, Yoro, Todd, Osam; Farrell (Higgins 68), Keaney, Verdon (Caffrey 54), Ryan (Keane 54); Kerrigan, Gill (Lonergan 68), Nolan (Duffy 54).

Cloverleaf Rover: Mannus, Gannon, Lopes, Hoare; Cotter (Cruise 58), Towell (O’Neill 45), Watt, Lyon (Farrugia 45); Byrne (Greene 39), Mandroiu; Gaffney (Emakhu 45).

Referee: Adrian Reale. Shamrock Rovers in cruise control at UCD to extend their lead at the top of the Premier Division

Fry Electronics Team

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