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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Mark McCadden

Rory Gaffney lifts lid off Tallaght Stadium with stoppage time stunner for Shamrock Rovers

Shamrock Rovers 3-2 Shelbourne

Shamrock Rovers are four “cup finals” away from clinching a third league title in a row - according to man of the moment Rory Gaffney.

Gaffney popped up with a wonder-volley deep into stoppage time to lift the roof off Tallaght Stadium and crush poor Shelbourne.

“We just have to keep ticking the league games off. It’s a cup final each week,” said Rovers’ goal hero.

Gaffney’s dramatic winner is the stuff that title wins are made of. ‘Fergie time’ was born out of Steve Bruce’s injury-time double against Sheffield Wednesday nearly 30 years ago.

We’ve had ‘Bradley time’ before. Rovers have a history of scoring crucial injury-time goals under their popular manager.

But has there been one as important as this?

The bench spilled onto the pitch, arms waving in the air, while fans climbed over chairs and onto barriers, just to get that inch or two closer to their heroes.

Rovers finished with a celebratory huddle, while Shels boss Damien Duff pointed to his watch, clearly outraged that the four minutes’ injury-time had already elapsed by the time the corner was taken.

Shelbourne manager Damien Duff was fuming after the game (©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

He’ll be wondering today just how his side failed to come away with something after their disciplined defending had kept their hosts at bay for so long.

They led twice through Shane Farrell. But once Dan Cleary had scored his second, the visitors were living on the edge.

And only three glaring misses by Aaron Greene had kept them on level terms before Gaffney’s strike.

“We kept plugging away,” Gaffney continued. “I thought we weren’t going to get a chance and thankfully we did.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks for us, but we obviously back ourselves.

“It's probably just tired bodies at the minute. But we just have to keep going.

“With three or four weeks left just have to get our work done.”

Up to the 84th minute it was a textbook counter-attacking performance by Shels, masterminded by their animated manager on the sidelines.

They had shown little attacking ambition prior to Farrell’s early opener, despite playing with a strong wind at their backs in the first-half.

So when they went in at half-time 2-1 up, it was no surprise that they decided to shut up shop after the break.

Rovers made six changes were made to the starting-11 yesterday, with Jack Byrne, Graham Burke and Gaffney among those to return.

It was an often frustrating evening for Byrne, who struggled to find his range in gale-force conditions. But then he demonstrated his value when he popped up with a couple of big set-pieces.

Shels’ 14th minute lead came against the run of play when Brendan Clarke’s goal-kick, headed clear by Cleary, was headed back into the Rovers half by JJ Lunney.

Farrell looked to be offside, but instead of waiting for a flag he made a beeline for Alan Mannus’s goal, raced into the box and lifted his shot over the advancing goalkeeper.

Rovers levelled on 27 minutes when Cleary headed Byrne’s corner home at the back post.

Farrell struck again moments before half-time when he struck Mark Coyle’s cross first-time on the half-volley, sending the ball spinning inside the left-hand post.

For long periods of the second-half, a Rovers revival looked unlikely, as they struggled to carve out an opening.

Then, with six minutes remaining, the dangerous Neil Farrugia found the head of Aaron Greene, his effort was parried by Clarke and Cleary swept the ball home from three yards.

Rovers, roared on by their fans, pushed for a winner - and Greene spurned three great opportunities, before they were awarded a corner with 94 minutes almost on the clock.

Byrne swung the ball in, it flicked off the head of Shels defender Stephan Negru and Gaffney, with his left boot, volleyed the ball in off the left-hand post.

Cue pandemonium.


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