James Chambers pinched a point for Shamrock Rovers with a penalty three minutes from the end of the Dublin derby at Sporting Fingal.
On an afternoon when the strong cross-field breeze militated against the free-flowing football normally associated with Fingal, they edged ahead 12 minutes from time through Conan Byrne’s first of the season but couldn’t hold on for what would have been their second successive home win.
The Northsiders were bright early on, Conan Byrne whipping a fifth minute free-kick just wide of Alan Mannus’ left-hand post.
Mannus was then caught off-guard by a stringing Shaun Williams
free-kick but recovered well from his fumble to snuff out the imminent arrival of the lurking Eamon Zayed.
On 15 minutes, Gary O’Neill brought the best out of the Rovers keeper with a low curler that looked destined for the bottom corner but the striker’s usual predatory instincts eluded him on the half hour when he failed to get a proper connection on a stray pass by ex-Fingal midfielder Robert Bayly, allowing Mannus to smother the shot at his feet.
Clearly, the Hoops were struggling in adapting to the swirling wind in their faces during the opening half and had only Thomas Stewart’s hastily struck shot that angled well wide to show on the chances
But the visitors looked that bit sharper following the turnaround and the prowess of James Chambers' set-pieces were starting to cause concern for goalkeeper Fingal netminder Brendan Clarke.
Defender Craig Sives spurned a great chance to connect with one of Chambers’ in-swingers on 53 minutes when his header flew over Clarke’s bar.
And after 66 minutes Stewart was put clear on goal only to be repelled by the onrushing Clarke who averted the danger.
Ollie Cahill tried to make the most of the conditions with a
long-range shot from 35 yards eight minutes later which veered wide but Fingal would draw first blood on 78 minutes.
Shaun Williams switched the ball to the unmarked Conan Byrne on the right channel, who cut in past Danny Murphy and Craig Sives all too easily before tucking home a right-footed shot from six yards.
The Hoops went all out for an equaliser and found it from the penalty spot after Chambers’ free-kick on the edge of the box struck Gary O’Neill’s arm, allowing the midfielder to beat Brendan Clarke with the spot-kick in off the post.
Dan Murray might have nicked in during stoppage time but Clarke was alert one more and advanced from his goal to foil the Hoops skipper.
Sporting Fingal (4-3-3): Clarke; O’Brien, Maher, Browne, Frost (Quinn 9); Finn, Williams, McFaul; C. Byrne, O’Neill, Zayed.
Shamrock Rovers (4-5-1): Mannus; Sives, Murray, Price, Murphy (Barrett 80); O’Connor (Dennehy 70), Turner, Chambers, Bayly (Rice 70), Cahill; Stewart
Referee: A. Buttimer (Cork)