Report: Ryan McMullen

A late strike from Johnny Kenny secured the Hoops their first win of the season in a tense affair at Eamonn Deacy Park.

In his team selection pre-match, Head Coach Stephen Bradley made just the one change to his starting side that faced Sligo Rovers last weekend – this saw Aaron Greene dropping to the bench with Darragh Nugent coming in to the side. Trevor Clarke also took a place among the substitutes, making a welcome return to the matchday squad.

Rovers lined out in a new teal coloured third kit which had been unveiled on social media shortly before kick-off, with Hoops fans in attendance having to do a double take as teams emerged from the tunnel.

The game started slowly with neither team managing to take full control, nor create any clear chances on goal in the opening quarter hour, on a calm, mild night in Galway.

Galway goalkeeper Brendan Clarke was the first of the two keepers to be tested when Graham Burke’s powerful strike stinging the palms of the experienced netminder on 15 minutes. 

Shortly after, Rovers came close again, this time through Josh Honohan who sent his header just over the crossbar.

On 22 minutes, Dylan Watts played a perfectly lofted through ball into the path of Burke, who’s touch took him past the on rushing Brendan Clarke, but Galway full back Al-Amin Kazeem made a last ditch intervention to deny Burke from slotting into an empty net.

Down the other end, Vincent Borden had a shot on goal after the home side broke away on the counter-attack, the attempt from the American however, lacked power and didn’t pose any problem to Leon Pohls in the Rovers goal.

Graham Burke played a ball through the Galway defence into striker Roy Gaffney who then had a chance in his home county but the Tuam native couldn’t reach the target from a tight angle. 

Rovers looked the more likely to find the breakthrough, continuing to dominate possession and create opportunities, however the sides couldn’t be separated at half time with both sides going in level at the break.

Galway would have a couple of half chances after the restart with Ed McCarthy trying his luck from range before a loose pass was intercepted by McCarthy to present another opportunity, but the hosts failed to work Pohls on either occasion. 

At the other end, Graham Burke, who was impressive throughout, worked some space on the edge of the Galway box before teeing up Dylan Watts wh saw his attempt take a deflection before drifting past the left post and going out for a corner kick. 

The Hosts almost broke the deadlock in the 80th minute, a long-range free kick was taken by David Hurley and sent into the box, Borden rose high to meet it and looked for to squeeze his header into the bottom right corner of the net, in the end it didn’t reach the target although it seemed Pohls in goal had it covered.

As the game ticked towards ninety, the goal the Hoops had been craving finally arrived. Another perfectly weighted ball from Dylan Watts found Darragh Burns who’s exquisite first touch and pass across the face of goal found the waiting Johnny Kenny who fired home to give the visitors a deserved lead.

The four minutes of injury time were up when referee Paul McLaughlin allowed a Galway corner to take place, but when David Hurley’s cross was plucked from the air by Leon Pohls, it was met with a similar roar from the away end that Johnny Kenny’s goal commanded minutes earlier. 

The full-time whistle sounded and a hard fought victory was secured, a timely boost for the Hoops heading into the international break. 

As the team applauded the away support, Stephen Bradley asked a young fan in the crowd to join him as he performed his signature celebration – it was certainly a night for him to remember. 

Rovers are next in action on Friday 29 March, when they host Bohemians at Tallaght Stadium, with kick-off set for 7:45pm.

Galway United: Clarke, O’Keeffe, Slevin, Brouder, Walsh, Hurley, O’Sullivan (Dervin 30’), Borden (Hickey 89’), McCormack ©, McCarthy (Lomboto 89’), Kazeem.

Galway United unused substitutes: Wright, Donelon, Nugent, Gaxha, Costello, Esua. 

Shamrock Rovers: Pohls, Honohan (Noonan 71’), Lopes, Grace, Cleary, Nugent (Kenny 71’), Watts, Poom, Burke, Gaffney (Greene 79’), Burns (Hoare 89’).

Shamrock Rovers unused substitutes: Steacy, Leitis, Barrett, Clarke. 

Referee: Paul McLaughlin