By David Sneyd
Shamrock Rovers reignited their title challenge with this comfortable Dublin derby win over St Patrick’s Athletic.
A cool finish from Greg Bolger in the first minute of first-half stoppage time broke the deadlock and the Hoops made sure to stay within eight points of league leaders Dundalk when Sean Kavanagh curled a deft free-kick into the bottom corner five minutes after the re-start.
St Pat’s showed little signs of life from that point as Rovers maintained the control they established from the first whistle.
Stephen Bradley’s side clicked into gear quickest but had they found their attacking stride properly, they could well have been out of sight inside the opening 20 minutes.
A fine bit of link-up play between Sean Kavanagh, Dan Carr and Jack Byrne resulted in a neat pass to Dylan Watts in space. His shot was tame, however, and easily collected by Brendan Clarke.
Seconds later and the St Pat’s goalkeeper was scrambling across his goal to tip away Trevor Clarke’s effort from a similar angle on that left side of the box.
Rovers targeted Simon Madden down that flank – Hoops boss Stephen Bradley showed the full back the door at Tallaght Stadium at the end of his first season in charge – and were getting plenty of joy with Clarke relentless in his attacking approach.
Just as it looked like Rovers were going to take control, they were given a swift reminder of the need to maintain concentration at the other end. Centre back Roberto Lopes scuffed a clearance straight to the feed of Chris Forrester.
The Saints playmaker bided his time with his pass through for Mikey Drennan, but the striker’s effort was poor and of no concern for Alan Mannus at the near post.
There was little to shout about for the home supporters but right on half-time they were given plenty to moan at when Bolger – a key member of the side which delivered the club’s last league title in 2013 – used his momentum to burst into the right side of the box from Byrne’s lay off.
Nominally a defensive midfielder, the Wexford native found himself in uncharted territory but didn’t look out of place as he calmly slotted across the face of goal and into the far corner.
That came in the first minute of injury time and the interval did nothing to stir the Saints into life. Five minutes after the re-start their challenge was over when Kavanagh curled his delightful free-kick around the wall.
Again Clarke was beaten. Again the ball rustled in the bottom corner.
Rovers showed their class from this point on, keeping Pat’s at arm’s length and maintaining their own energy reserves with Europa League qualifying on the horizon.
Still, with Dundalk eight points clear they can’t let them out of sight on the domestic front.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Simon Madden, Lee Desmond, Kevin Toner, Ian Bermingham; Jamie Lennon, Cian Coleman, Conor Clifford (Rhys McCabe 28), Chris Forrester; Mikey Drennan, Jake Walker (Dean Clarke HT).
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O’Brien, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Trevor Clarke; Ronan Finn, Greg Bolger, Dylan Watts (Thomas Oluwa 85), Jack Byrne, Sean Kavanagh; Dan Carr (Aaron Greene HT).
Referee: Graham Kelly (Cork).