Almost 3,000 fans watched Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers play out a 1-1 draw at the Showgrounds in their opening tie of the new Airtricity Premier Division on Saturday.

Former Hoops star Eoin Doyle put the home side in front when he headed home in the opening half, but James Chambers secured a point for the visitors with a second-half penalty.

The home side left Conor O’Grady on the bench after he suffered a bereavement during the week, but former Hoops stars Padraig Amond and Doyle were among the starting 11.

Shamrock Rovers were without last season’s top-scorer Gary Twigg through injury, while Pat Sullivan and Craig Sives missed out through suspension.

Doyle opened the scoring with his second goal in two games on 22 minutes. The winger rose high at the back post to head home after Gary McCabe and Richie Ryan had worked a cross from the right following Sligo’s fourth corner of the opening half.

Mannus had earlier denied the winger with a fingertip save to turn his free-kick over the bar.

At the other end, Richard Brush got down well to prevent Sean O’Connor’s shot from outside the area from causing trouble.

Sligo almost doubled their lead 10 minutes into the second half when a brilliant piece of skill from McCabe at the edge of the area teed up Richie Ryan, whose well-struck shot was palmed on to the crossbar by Mannus.

Ryan, Paul Whelan and Gavin Peers picked up the game’s first bookings as the Hoops tried to up the tempo, with Dessie Baker combining to support Barrett up front.

Baker lasted just ten minutes before he went off with a knock, but the visitors found the equaliser in that period.

The goal was controversial, with Buttimer awarding a penalty after he adjudged that a James Chambers free-kick was blocked with a hand by the Sligo wall. Chambers coolly converted the spot-kick.

Sligo reacted by springing Conor O’Grady and Mark Doninger from the bench, while Kavanagh replaced the unfortunate Baker.

The visitors piled on the pressure in closing stages, but Sligo nearly won it on the counter-attack when a long clearance from Peers was brilliantly controlled by Blinkhorn only for Mannus to turn his shot around the post.

Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush; Paul Whelan, Gavin Peers, Alan Keane, Iarfhlaith Davoren; Gary McCabe (Dean Marshall 88), Danny Ventre (captain), Richie Ryan (Conor O’Grady 71), Eoin Doyle; Matthew Blinkhorn, Padraig Amond (Mark Doninger 71).

Subs not used: Ciaran Kelly, Mauro Almeida.

Booked: Ryan, Whelan, Peers, Doyle.

Shamrock Rovers:
Alan Mannus; Pat Flynn, Dan Murray (captain), Aidan Price, Danny Murphy; Stephen Bradley (Dessie Baker 57 (Paddy Kavanagh 66)), Stephen Rice, James Chambers; Sean O’Connor, Billy Dennehy, Graham Barrett (Ollie Cahill 83).

Subs not used: Robert Hughes, Enda Stevens.

Referee: Anthony Buttimer (Cork).