One thousand Shamrock Rovers fans were allowed back into the stadium for Friday night's 1-1 draw with Finn Harps, however, manager Stephen Bradley said that if felt like five times the amount.
Supporters have not been allowed entry to a Rovers match at Tallaght Stadium since February 2020, and the 469-day wait resulted in an outpouring of emotion at the Dublin venue.
The result may not have gone the way of the Rovers, who missed a chance to move clear at the top of the table after the first-half Aaron Greene goal was cancelled out by Adam Foley in the second.
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However, the manager was delighted to see the supporters back inside the ground as part of the trial events being staged as part of the Government’s programme to test the return of fans across Irish sport under the 'Resilience and Recovery: The Path Ahead’ programme.
"We spoke beforehand about how special it was as the first game back with fans and to go and perform for them and enjoy it, and for large parts I thought we did," said Bradley, speaking to RTE Sport after the game.
"But it was great to have the fans back in the ground. It was strange at the start but it was brilliant to hear them and feel the energy again."
Watching on from the side-line, Bradley believes that the players had a different energy as a result of the fans’ return and the Hoops boss felt that his side played their best football all season throughout the first half.
"It’s just a better game all round. We’d all be in agreement, it’s not the same without fans.
"There was a different energy. You could see our tempo in the first half, that was the best tempo we have played at in a long time, and that is down to the crowd, that energy, that excitement, and you definitely seen a difference.
"I thought first half was the best we’ve been, I thought we were outstanding in the first half.
"And you saw at the end, when we were pushing [for a winner], you felt the energy, it was brilliant. There was only 1,000 but it felt like 5,000."
Delighted with the return of the fans but disappointed with the result, Bradley’s side now sit level with Sligo Rovers on points at the top of the table, however, Liam Buckley’s side have a game in hand as they take on Drogheda later tonight.
But Bradley has no complaints with the result as he felt that his side did not start in the second half until Harps worked their way back into the game, and despite finishing strongly, they were not able to conjure up a late winner.
"Disappointed with the result. For 15 minutes in the second half, we were really, really poor. They score a goal and then they hang on for their lives.
"You can’t start the second half the way we did and give a decent team with good players opportunities and we did that."