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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Paul Lennon

Shamrock Rovers 3 Sligo Rovers 1: Sub Graham Burke's hat-trick jolts sluggish Hoops into life

GRAHAM Burke's superb 14 minute hat-trick transformed a haphazard Hoops' display into a crucial Premier Division victory.

The Ireland international was one of four interval substitutions that Stephen Bradley made following a first 45 minutes that belied Shamrock Rovers' bid for a hat-trick of league titles.

The half-time Tallaght medicine worked a treat to send The Hoops to the top of the table.

Burke broke Sligo's stubborn and well organised resistance in the 54th minute with a fine right footed finish following a swift move involving Andy Lyons and Jack Byrne when Colm Horgan lost the ball in a dangerous central area.

Within two minutes, Burke's cultured left foot had converted Rory Gaffney's fine pass after the striker's excellent hold-up work created the space.

Rovers wrapped up the points when Lyons teed up Burke just outside the box with Burke's second strike of the night with his 'other ' right peg beating Richard Brush low inside his far post.

Outstanding from Burke whose seven goals this season make him Rovers' top scorer.

More importantly, with Derry City held to a scoreless draw at home by St Patrick's Athletic, the win moves Bradley's boys to the Premier summit for the first time since mid-March.

The Candystripes come to Tallaght Stadium on Friday when they should have the 'sold out' signs up once again - unlike tonight when the attendance at just 3,006 was the lowest of the campaign to date.

It took Bradley 45 minutes to realise that tonight's three Premier Division points were just as important as Friday's potential precious prize.

Once the Shamrock Rovers' boss adjusted his and his team's sights, the champions comprehensively claimed a crucial Tallaght Stadium victory.

The sluggish Hoops laboured to match their hard working visitors in an opening half when the champions failed to direct a shot on the Sligo goal.

Bradley opted to relegate Sean Gannon, Richie Towell, Rory Gaffney, Chris McCann and Andy Lyons to the bench from Friday's win over Finn Harps with Danny Mandroiu and Lee Grace not in the squad.

In came Sean Hoare, Barry Cotter, Dylan Watts, Aaron Greene, Gary O'Neill, Aidomo Emakhu and Neil Farrugia.

Buckley's wholesale changes were made for a different reason following their very sluggish outing when losing to Shelbourne.

Will Fitzgerald, Aidan Keena, Mark Byrne, Paddy Kirk and Alan Cawley made way for Colm Horgan, Jordan Hamilton, Seamus Keogh, Garry Buckley and Max Mata with Sligo's plans further altered when a rib injury forced Ed McGinty to stand down to let Richard Brush to start in goal.

The changes undoubtedly affected The Hoops whose usual rhythm seldom was seldom harnessed in the opening half.

While Byrne showed some flashes of inspiration, the home side' offerings in the first 45 minutes lacked flair and spark.

It was, in fact, Sligo who showed greater cohesion while they also produced the better scoring chances even if these could not be described as clear cut.

Robbie McCourt's pacy low cross from the left in the ninth minute was en route to Mata at the far post but the alert Sean Kavanagh - operating in the unlikely role as left sided central defender in a three man rearguard - cleared the danger with a timely interception .

It was not until the 23rd minute that the next opportunity was again crafted down the Sligo left with Farrugia this time the one to cover and clear McDonnell's cross.

The Hoops finally started to tread a few passes together in the final 15 minutes of the half and when Byrne released Emakhu in the 35th minute in a great central position and 25 yards from goal, the home fans rose from their seats in expectation.

However, the talented young striker's control let him down and Brush comfortably collected the ball.

Emakhu was one of four interval switches by Bradley as Greene, Farrugia and O'Neill also exited to allow Graham Burke, Gaffney, McCann and Lyons to enter the fray.

The wholesale alterations had the desired effect with Burke now back to his best following injury and Gaffney's running and presence offering the attack a focal point.

To Sligo's credit, they kept pressing and substitute Keena replied with a stunning 81st minute drive that beat Alan Mannus at his near post.

Shamrock Rovers

Alan Mannus 7

Sean Hoare 7

Roberto Lopes 7

Sean Kavanagh 6

Barry Cotter 6

Dylan Watts 7

Gary O'Neill 6

Neil Farrugia 6

Jack Byrne 7

Aidomo Emakhu 6

Aaron Greene 6


Leon Pohls

Sean Gannon

Ronan Finn

Graham Burke 8 for Greene 46

Kieran Cruise

Chris McCann 7 for O'Neill 46

Rory Gaffney 7 for Emakhu 46

Richie Towell for Byrne 75

Andy Lyons 7 for Farrugia 46

Sligo Rovers:

Richard Brush 7

Lewis Banks 7

Garry Buckley 7

Nando Pijnaker 7

Robbie McCourt 7

Greg Bolger 7

Colm Horgan 6

Adam McDonnell 6

Seamus Keogh 6

Jordan Hamilton 5

Max Mata 6


Niall Morahan for McDonnell 82

Kalin Barlow

Cillian Heaney 5 for Hamilton 60

Mark Byrne

Aidan Keena 5 for Mata 60

Paddy Kirk

Karl O'Sullivan for Horgan 80

Will Fitzgerald 5 for Keogh 60

Referee: D Tomney 7. att 3,066. Weather heavy second half rain.

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