Report: Ryan McMullen

Rovers rescued a draw at home to Galway thanks to a late header from super-sub Johnny Kenny.

In the first game of another double-header of home matches this weekend, Head Coach Stephen Bradley made three changes to the starting team that picked up a point away to Shelbourne on Monday. At the back, Sean Kavanagh came into the side for the suspended Dan Cleary. Aaron Greene and Rory Gaffney also started – ahead of Johnny Kenny and Richie Towell, the latter dropping out of the squad altogether after picking up a knock at Tolka Park earlier in the week.

With the squad plagued with injuries, several Academy players lined out on the bench – notably, six out of the nine substitute options were under the age of twenty.

On the pitch, the Hoops started stronger, controlling the possession, but it wasn’t until the 18th minute that they carved out their first opportunity – that was when Aaron Greene slipped a nicely weighted pass into Darragh Nugent at the edge of the box – who hammered his shot just above the woodwork.

Greene then had a chance for himself, likewise though, he couldn’t keep the ball down and saw his chance just miss the target and sail over the crossbar.

In the 31st minute, Darragh Burns made a run into the box from the right, he skilfully beat Galway midfielder Ed McCarthy and took a strike – in the end, his attempt flashed the face of the goal but surpassed the frame of the target.

Al-Amin Kazeem tested goalkeeper Leon Pohls as he looked to put the visitors ahead, forcing the German to get down to his left to thwart the wing-back’s advances.

Chances were hard to come by in the first 45 minutes, which the home side mainly dominated – although they couldn’t manage to cause any significant trouble to Brendan Clarke in goal for Galway.

As a result, it remained scoreless as the teams left the pitch at the half-time break.

Just after the restart, a handball by Cameroonian Jeannot Esua inside the penalty area meant the Hoops were awarded a penalty.

And Dylan Watts stepped up to take it, firing a decent effort at goal – however, it was kept out by a strong stop from Clarke, down low to his right.

Despite the frustration, the hosts kept going as they looked to break the deadlock. A header from Greene off the back of a cross from Rory Gaffney lacked the power needed to test Clarke.

Against the run of play, the visitors broke the deadlock after 55 minutes through substitute Stephen Walsh. With back to goal on the left wing, Ed McCarthy flicked the ball over the top into the path of Walsh who battled with Roberto Lopes before firing a strike across Pohls into the far corner.

As Rovers looked to respond, Trevor Clarke tried his luck from long-range and wasn’t far off – ultimately, his hit was too heavy.

Clarke also tried to convert a header at the back post after a beautiful ball that was sent across the box from Burns on the right – but from a tight angle, the left wing-back failed to find the target.

16-year-old Matthew Britton was called off the bench to replace Rory Gaffney and make his league debut with the first team, as the game entered the later stages. Britton impressed throughout his time on the field, and his energy in the middle of the park was impactful.

Rovers managed to find a late leveller when striker Johnny Kenny met a cross from a Dylan Watts corner. Despite Brendan Clarke getting a hand to it, the striker had generated enough power to beat the Galway goalkeeper to level the scores with 6 to play.

During additional time, Lopes came closest to netting a winner with a header which he saw fly beyond the crossbar. That turned out to be the final opportunity before referee David Dunne blew his whistle to mark full-time – with the Hoops forced to settle for a share of the spoils.

Overall, it was a disappointing result for the Rovers. Their aim will now be to get back to winning ways, and they don’t have to wait long to get the opportunity to do so – the Champions will face Louth side Drogheda United as they make the trip to D24 on Monday night, with kick-off set for 8 pm.

Shamrock Rovers: Pohls, Burns, Honohan, Lopes ©, Kavanagh, Clarke, Noonan (Kenny 60’), Watts, Nugent, Greene, Gaffney (Britton 79’).

Shamrock Rovers unused substitutes: Steacy, Leitis, Barrett, J O’Sullivan, C O’Sullivan, Kovalevskis, Reddy.

Galway United: Clarke, Esua, Brouder, Slevin (O’Keefe 90+4), Kazeem, McCormack ©, Borden (Hickey 90+5), Hurley (Nugent 85’), Dervin (Walsh 46’), McCarthy (Donelon 86’), O’Sullivan.

Galway United unused substitutes: Wright, Aouachria. Gaxha, Lomboto.

Referee: David Dunne