By Dave Donnelly
Shamrock Rovers 3-1 Wexford Youths
Goals from Gary McCabe, Brandon Miele and Sean Boyd saw Shamrock Rovers battle from behind to take all three points with a 3-1 win over Wexford Youths at Tallaght Stadium.
Danny Furlong had given Wexford the lead from the penalty spot midway through a first half that rarely let up in terms of intensity or tempo.
The home side were creative in possession and good value for their win, however, and the visitors were fortunate to keep the losing margin to just two goals.
Both sides made two changes following the short turnaround from Friday's series of matches.
Rovers caretaker manager Stephen Bradley brought in Gary McCabe and Dean Clarke for Stephen McPhail and Gary Shaw following the 3-2 loss in Sligo.
Youths boss Shane Keegan had to do without the injured Eric Molloy and Aidan Keenan from Friday's win over Longford Town, and they were replaced by Andy Mulligan and Shane Dunne.
The game began at a frantic pace – a sign of what was to come – as Youths broke from a Rovers attack within the first minute and Johnny Bonner forced a routine save from Craig Hyland.
Both sides chose to start the game with two strikers and the attacking intent was noticeable from the off, with Youths' Furlong and Paul Murphy causing problems for Rovers' back three.
The extra man in midfield was standing to the home side, however, and they were guilty of overcomplicating things when McCabe had a chance to shoot from inside the area but opted to pass to the offside Miele.
The game's first flashpoint came on 19 minutes when Rovers defender David O'Connor clumsily collided with Youths striker Paul Murphy inside the box and referee Adriano Reale correctly awarded a penalty.
Danny Furlong stepped up to take the spot-kick and hit the ball low to Hyland's left. The former Longford stopper got a hand to the ball but couldn't prevent it from rustling the net.
Youths had chances to double their lead as Shane Dunne attempted an audacious lob from 40 yards, before Furlong stabbed his shot just wide from close range.
The away side were made to pay for their profligacy ten minutes before the break as Gary Delaney chopped down Sean Boyd on the edge of the box, and McCabe stepped up to smash the free-kick into the top corner.
Happy Hoops 3-1 winners pic.twitter.com/6bpuhdSjNE— Shamrock Rovers F.C. (@ShamrockRovers) August 15, 2016
The turnaround was complete four minutes later as the impressive Miele found space in the box to hammer Dean Clarke's pass past a helpless Graham Doyle and into the top corner.
The home side were rampant by this stage, pulling the Youths defence inside and out with intricate quick passing, and both Miele and Simon Madden had chances to extend the lead before the break.
The Hoops began the second half the way they ended the first, on the front foot, and could have been celebrating again had McCabe not swung at fresh air after a well-worked corner routine.
Stephen Last was lucky to avoid a red card when he scythed down Miele as he broke on goal, and from the resulting set piece the Tallaght man forced Doyle to tip brilliantly over the bar.
Boyd was next to try his luck as the big striker knocked the ball down for Miele before continuing his run into the box, and he was unlucky to see his shot cannon back off the post.
Boyd got his goal shortly afterwards, however, as Trevor Clarke picked him out in the six-yard box and he glanced his header past a stranded Doyle.
Things got worse for Youths as Gary Delaney received his marching orders for a second yellow card after chopping down substitute James Doona.
Shamrock Rovers: Craig Hyland; Rob Cornwall, David O'Connor, David Webster; Pat Cregg, Brandon Miele (James Doona 77), Trevor Clarke, Simon Madden; Dean Clarke (Gary Shaw 69), Sean Boyd (Aaron Dobbs 77).
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle; Craig McCabe, Stephen Last, Gary Delaney, Lee Grace; Conor O'Keeffe, Johnny Bonner (Shane Dempsey 80), Shane Dunne (Chris Kenny 80); Danny Furlong, Paul Murphy.