A brace of goals by the departing Gary Twigg helped Shamrock Rovers labour to an unconvincing 2-1 win over UCD in their Airtricity League Premier Division encounter at Tallaght Stadium.
Clinical strikes in the 18th and 20th minutes showed all Rovers fans what they will sorely miss although the students responded through a sublime strike from David McMillan in the 22nd minute.
The students were far sharper after the break but were denied a point when Oscar Jansson tipped a sumptuous McMillan chip away to safety five minutes from time.
After a less than lively opening by either side, Twigg gave his adoring public the goal they craved with a sublime finish in the 18th minute with the Scotsman racing onto Billy Dennehy’s through ball before finding the net from an acute angle after rounding Ger Barron.
The second goal, arriving two minutes later, lacked the quality of the initial strike but was equally proficient as Twigg cleverly beat the offside trap to meet Stephen Rice’s pass and a simple finish from eight yards was the inevitable result.
A rout seemed likely at this juncture but the students were back in contention by the end of the first quarter as McMillan turned onto Gary Burke’s pass before firing a sublime strike over the stranded Oscar Jansson from 22 yards.
A header from the same player in the 24th minute ensured the Hoops must remain vigilant defensively but the onus was at the opposite end of the pitch and Twigg’s seemingly inevitable hat-trick.
A golden chance to arrive at that landmark was spurned in the 26th minute as the Scotsman stole in at the back post but could only divert his header from Aaron Greene’s centre wide of Ger Barron’s left-hand upright from four yards.
Barron was called into action in the 33rd minute as he denied Dennehy after excellent approach play involving Gary McCabe with Twigg flagged offside as he looked to feast on the rebound.
The final chance of an absorbing first-half fittingly fell at the normally trusty left-boot of Twigg but after McCabe had worked wonders down the left flank, a horrible volley over Barron’s crossbar betrayed the normally reliable finisher.
The hosts resumed in slightly ponderous fashion, allowing their opponents to generate a degree of momentum and Samir Belhout was unfortunate to his skimming drive deflected wide of Jansson’s upright in the 52nd minute.
Two minutes later, the students could feel aggrieved when Jansson was only cautioned when blocking the marauding McMillan on the edge of the penalty area with Paul O’Connor floating the resultant free-kick harmlessly over the crossbar.
UCD were continuing to show greater attacking threat and in the 73rd minute they had a vehement penalty appeal turned down as McMillan’s free-kick appeared to brush Conor McCormack’s arm but Tuite was insistent in his decision to award a corner-kick.
With Twigg having been replaced by Gary O’Neill two minutes later, UCD continued to dominate the half and McMillan was denied a deserved equaliser in the 85th minute when his adventurous chipped attempt was scrambled to safety by the back-pedalling Jansson.
Shamrock Rovers: Jansson; Sullivan, Oman, Gartland, Powell; Dennehy, McCormack, Rice, McCabe, Greene; Twigg (O’Neill, 75).
UCD: Barron; Douglas (Langtry, 46), Kavanagh, Leahy, Nangle; Mulhall (McCabe, 67), Burke, Benson, O’Connor, Belhout (Lyons, 60); McMillan.
Referee: Paul Tuite (Dublin)