Rovers within touching distance of title after win over UCD

An early Neil Farrugia strike proved enough to take all three points, helping the three-in-a-row chasing Hoops extend their lead to five points with just six games remaining
Rovers within touching distance of title after win over UCD

WINNER: Shamrock Rovers' Neil Farrugia celebrates after scoring a goal. Pic: INPHO/Ben Brady

Shamrock Rovers 1 UCD 0 

Shamrock Rovers are within touching distance of retaining their title thanks to a less than convincing 1-0 home win against a battling UCD side.

An early Neil Farrugia strike proved enough to take all three points, helping the three-in-a-row chasing Hoops extend their lead to five points with just six games remaining.

Prior to their somewhat shock FAI Cup quarter-final defeat at Treaty United, the Students produced one of their best results of the season defeating high flying Dundalk to move themselves off the foot of the table. 

Their energetic, high-pressing game had the look of a side who had 10 days to prepare but the failure to retain possession in attacking areas meant they were powerless to stop the waves of Rovers attacks.

In the midst of such a busy period, it was surprising that the home side made just one change with the return of Lee Grace to captain the side in place of Ronan Finn.

Jack Byrne and Graham Burke went close early on before Neil Farrugia opened the scoring after just 13 minutes. Front man Rory Gaffney burst down the left and into the area, before playing an inviting outside of the boot into the danger area, where up popped wing back Farrugia who bundled home.

Not content with the one Rovers, getting a lot of joy down their left side, continued to press for a second and almost doubled their lead through a thunderous Burke strike from out wide, almost catching out Lorcan Healy at his near post.

Scorer almost turned provider as Farrugia cut inside from the right wing before slipping in Gaffney, who opted for power from point blank range, blasting the ball straight at the brave Healy who took the full force of the strike on the head.

Donal Higgins went close for the visitors when his left footed volley flashed past the near post of Alan Mannus, just reminding the comfortable champions that there was still just one in it, as the half drew to a close.

Having failed to recover fully from the Gaffney strike, Healy was replaced at the break by Kian Moore. And the substitute was forced into action straight away as ex-Preston front man Burke smashed another effort towards the near post.

Chance after chance continued to come for the hosts but it was the visitors who went closest to scoring next. Dylan Duffy’s beautifully curled effort from the edge of the area looked destined for the top corner, only to be denied by an incredible finger tipped save from Mannus at full stretch.

The frustrated groans continued to ring around Tallaght as the Hoops lack of killer instinct in the final third continued. Jack Byrne went close with a left footed effort that narrowly missed the target, before Lee Grace saw his header miss the foot of the post by inches. Right on the stroke of full time substitute Aaron Greene fluffed his lines as a game that should have been more comfortable drew to a close.

The Hoops fixture congestion shows no sign of letting up as they move on to face a massive double header with Molde in the Europa conference League, sandwiched either side of a home clash with Shelbourne, starting this Thursday night.

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus, Sean Kavanagh, Lee Grace, Daniel Cleary, Sean Gannon, Neil Farrugia, Gary O’Neill (Aaron Greene, 64’), Dylan Watts (Carl Lennox, 90’), Jack Byrne, Graham Burke (Ronan Finn 85’), Rory Gaffney. 

Subs not used: Leon Pohls, Richie Towell, Chris McCann, Gideon Tetteh, Kieran Cruise, Aidomo Emakhu. 

UCD: Lorcan Healy (Kian Moore, 45’), Alex Dunne (Michael Gallagher, 75’), Sam Todd, Jack Keaney, Evan Osam, Alex Nolan (Harry O’Connor, 84’), Evan Caffrey, Dara Keane, Donal Higgins (John Haist, 69’), Sean Brennan, Dylan Duffy. 

Subs not used: Mark Dignam, Jamie Duggan, Tobi Jinad, Aaron Corish. 

Referee: Kevin O’Sullivan.

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