By Matthew Foley

Shamrock Rovers were held to a 1-1 draw by Drogheda United at Tallaght Stadium on Saturday afternoon as the Hoops returned to domestic action after their exploits in Europe midweek. Two goals in the final 15 minutes of the game meant that both teams shared the points in what was a dull encounter for the most part.

Chances were few and far between in the opening stages as both teams had spells of possession as they tried to work their way into the game. The Hoops started slowly and allowed Drogheda to take an early foothold in the game, but as the half progressed Rovers began to get a stranglehold on proceedings, with Richie Towell and Graham Burke both having half chances to opening the scoring.

Stephen Bradley’s men continued to stay on top for the remainder of the first half, keeping possession well and looking threatening down the wings. Despite the positive display, Rovers were just missing the final pass as the sides went in level as referee Derek Tomney blew for halftime.

Much like how the game begin, Drogheda started the brighter of the two sides after the restart and nearly took the lead just five minutes after the break. Darragh Markey’s dangerous corner kick picked out Keith Cowan whose header was cleared off the line by Graham Burke before Roberto Lopes then heroically blocked Adam Foley’s rebound from finding the back of the net. A let-off for the Hoops.

The Hoops had further cause for concern when Lopes, captain for the day, was forced off with an injury. He was replaced by Sean Hoare. Stephen Bradley will be hoping the Cape Verde international hasn’t picked up a significant injury that will keep him on the sidelines for any length of time. The Hoops Head Coach later confirmed that Lopes was in with the doctor and physio post-match as we await further news on the extent of Saturday’s injury.

Rovers brought on some fresh legs in Aidamo Emakhu and Justin Ferizaj as they attempted to push for a breakthrough. Bradley’s positive substitutions paid off as with 10 minutes to go the Hoops broke the deadlock.

Some unbelievable wing play from Sean Kavanagh on the left touchline engineered some space to put in an inch-perfect cross for Emakhu who made no mistake heading the ball past Colin McCabe at the near post to give the home side a deserved lead. It was Emakhu’s first goal of the 2022 campaign.

Unfortunately, Rovers could not see the game out and take home all three points as Drogheda scored with three minutes left to play. The Hoops could only half clear a Drogheda corner, with the ball dropping to Evan Weir at the edge of the box who made no mistake with a first-time strike through a ruck of bodies and past Alan Mannus.

Weir was then sent off moments later for a second yellow card with tensions rising as the game ticked towards ninety minutes. An additional five minutes of injury time were to be played and midway through those the Hoops had a glorious chance to snatch all three points as Emakhu’s goal-bound effort was blocked, somehow, by Ryan Brennan.

The Hoops will be disappointed not to take all three points however today’s point extends their lead at the top to seven points.

Focus now switches back to European football for the Hoops as they host Ludogorets in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League qualifying round on Tuesday night in Tallaght.

Shamrock Rovers: A Mannus, S Gannon, R Lopes (S Hoare 54’), S Kavanagh, N Farrugia (L Grace 61’), R Towell (R Gaffney 46’), G O’Neill, A Lyons, G Burke (J Ferizaj 72’), D Watts; A Greene (A Emakhu 61’).

Subs not used: L Pohls, G Tetteh, R Finn; C McCann.

Booked: G O’Neil, A Mannus; D Watts.

Drogheda United: C McCabe, E Weir, K Cowan, A Quinn, G Poynton (D Noone 84’), J Clarke, G Deegan, D Rooney (D Grimes 84’), D Markey, A Foley (R Brennan 71’); D Williams (C Lyons 74’).

Subs not used: L Steacy, D Molloy, C Mutawe, E Topcu; F Pagel.

Booked: E Weir (sent off), J Clarke; K Cowan.

Referee: Derek Tomney