Match Report by Tony Ghee
Shamrock Rovers 2 (Burke '54, Gannon 90+3')
Longford Town 1 (Grimes pen '7)
Despite taking an early lead through a Dylan Grimes penalty, Longford Town suffered last gasp agony, as a Sean Gannon deflected shot deep in stoppage time gave champions Shamrock Rovers a two-one win over Longford Town at Tallaght Stadium.
Longford manager Daire Doyle made four changes to the side that suffered the four-nil home loss to Drogheda, with keeper Mick Kelly, defender Shane Elworthy, midfielder Aaron Robinson, and striker Aaron Dobbs all starting, as Lee Steacy, Joe Manley and Rob Manley all dropped to the bench, while Aaron McNally was out with an injury.
Longford Town stunned the champions after just six minutes with the opening goal after Rovers were caught napping in possession. Roberto Lopez took a heavy touch from a Graham Burke pass which was pounced on by Town striker Aaron Dobbs, he ran in on goal and was fouled by Lopez with referee Rob Hennessy pointing to the spot.
Up stepped Grimes to send Rovers’ keeper Alan Mannus the wrong way as he despatched his penalty to the bottom right corner of the Hoops net to give the visitors a surprise lead.
Shamrock Rovers dominated possession for the next fifteen minutes winning four corners and having a couple of shots which were straight at Town keeper Kelly, but the Town defence held firm.
The Town came back into the contest and tested the Rovers’ reargaurd with some testing deliveries into the home sides’ penalty area, but chances for both sides were at a premium.
The home side came close to equalising twice in the final five minutes of the first half. Firstly, a Sean Kavanagh strike from twenty-two yards out on forty-one minutes flew narrowly over the Longford Town crossbar, and then on the half-time whistle, Aaron Greene headed a Graham Burke cross straight at Town keeper Kelly.
Shamrock Rovers started the second-half in whirlwind fashion as they tested Town keeper Kelly twice in the opening minute.
Chris McCann saw his effort pushed around the post by Kelly and from the resulting corner, a Burke header from a Mandroiu delivery was brilliantly saved by the Town stopper.
The Hoops were back on level terms on fifty-four minutes with a penalty of their own.
A Burke corner resulted in Lopes tangling with Dobbs, and for the second time in the match, referee Hennessy pointed to the spot, with Burke firing his spot kick straight down the middle to make it one-all.
The visitors almost regained the lead on sixty-five minutes. A super jinking run from Grimes set-up Aaron Robinson but his shot was superbly tipped around the post by Mannus.
Two minutes later, the Town had another excellent chance, this time an Elworthy ball into the box caught the Rovers’ defence by surprise, and Karl Chambers reflex shot from the edge of the box landed on the roof of the Rovers’ net.
Rovers’ substitute, Rory Gaffney fired an angled shot into the Longford side-netting on seventy-five minutes, and three minutes later, a hooked effort from Burke was just off target.
Rovers almost won the game in stoppage time but Kelly made a magnificent save from Dylan Watts.
However, Longford suffered heartbreak in the third minute of added time as a Watts free-kick came back off the Longford wall into the path of Sean Gannon, and his twenty-five yard shot took a wicked deflection off Aodh Dervan and although Kelly got his hand to the ball, it spun into the Longford net.
Shamrock Rovers: Mannus, Lopes, Grace, Scales, Gannon, McCann, Finn, Kavanagh, Mandroiu, Greene, Burke. Finn, Kavanagh, Mandroiu, Greene, Burke.
Substitutions: Gaffney for Grace, O’Neill for Finn (both half-time), Watts for Mandroiu (58')
Longford Town: Kelly, Chambers, O’Driscoll, Gorman, Kirk, Elworthy, Dervin, Robinson, Bolger, Grimes, Dobbs.
Substitutions: Verdon for Bolger (72'), Rob Manley for Dobbs (80')