Rovers shoot down Sheriff
But non-league side keep their honour in FAI Cup exit
THE door to European football next season, via the FAI Cup, is still open for Shamrock Rovers as the Hoops made it safely into the last eight of the competition with a 3-1 win over Sheriff YC.
But Rovers, cup winners a record number of times, will need a lot better in the later stages of the competition if they are to win it for the first time since 1987 as they were made to work really hard by the non-league side.
Praise for non-league teams who lose to top-flight opposition can appear patronising in the cold light of day but Alan Reilly's side brought some real kudos to their club and their league.
Rovers needed a penalty from Mark Quigley – a Sheriff local boy – to make the scoreline look comfortable after John Rock had scored to cause some nervous moments for the home fans at Tallaght Stadium.
Ahead of the game, bookmakers had given the non-league sides like Sheriff no real chance of an upset, with prices of 14/1 on a Sheriff win in Dublin 24.
And while Derry City started as they finished, struggling to break down Bluebell United at the Brandywell, Rovers had their nerves eased early on when they took the lead in the ninth minute.
Conor Powell sent in a cross from the left which should have been cleared away to safety by the Sheriff defence but Conor McCormack was alert while the away side were caught off guard, and McCormack cut back a ball which fell for Stewart to finish past Austin O'Neill.
Sheriff kept their shape, however, and tried to respond, John Lester going close with a 16th-minute strike after Richie Ryan lost possession, but on 21 minutes the tie looked as if it was over when Rovers doubled their lead.
Again the move was started by left-back Powell, his cross controlled by Quigley and the Rovers striker, whose season has been marred by injury, laid the ball off for Robinson.
Now 2-0 down, Sheriff could have crumbled but showed their hunger and determination with a fightback.
Anthony Kane did enough to force a corner from Rovers defender Jason McGuinness – a Sheriff player in his youth – and four minutes before half time, Darren Dunne came close to scoring for the non-league side, his shot forcing a save from Barry Murphy in the Rovers goal.
With a half-time rest and some words of encouragement from Reilly, Sheriff looked strong after the break and sought an upset.
There were early signs of promise when Anthony Kane and Sean Murphy combined to set up a chance for Rock a minute after the restart, and on 56 minutes Sheriff were back in the tie, thanks to the latter's goal.
Lester sent in a cross which was met with a header by Rock and his effort didn't appear to have enough power to beat Murphy, but the Rovers keeper was still caught off guard as the effort chance came off the upright and crept over the line.
However, Rovers regained their two-goal advantage on 65 minutes from the penalty spot, Quigley converting after keeper O'Neill fouled substitute Karl Sheppard in the box.
There was still a lot of fight left in the Sheriff side, with sub Alan McCabe causing some real problems when he came on.
A blast of 'I Shot The Sheriff' on the stadium's PA at the final whistle was a sign from Bob Marley that Rovers had done enough to get through, on a night when Sheriff's rivals Bluebell United stayed in the competition with a draw 'at home' to Derry at the Brandywell.