Fan trouble piles misery on Rovers
IT WAS a night Shamrock Rovers will want to forget for many reasons. On the field, they were beaten -- for the second time this season -- by Dundalk in this top-of-the-table Airtricity League Premier Division tussle.
Off the field, a section of Rovers fans may have landed the club in hot water after the game was temporarily stopped because of clashes with gardai.
Away from the trouble, the match had all the elements the League of Ireland needs. It was rich in drama and high in quality, all played in front of a large crowd. And it ultimately served up the kind of result that is giving the new campaign a real edge on the park.
Yet the legacy of this match will be the troubling scenes close to the final whistle which nearly resulted in this encounter being postponed. All in front of a live TV audience.
Dundalk were on their way to a victory they deserved when the dismissal of Rovers midfielder James Chambers and manager Michael O'Neill infuriated a section of the visiting support, who encroached from their position to such an extent that the guards were forced to step in amid a flurry of objects being thrown in the direction of the pitch. The pictures will serve as the judge and jury in the post-mortem.
The footballing sum total is that the Louth club are top of the table after a tempestuous clash between two of the domestic game's traditional powers.
Ian Foster's side took the initiative in the first half as they pressed high up the park, not affording the Hoops a moment's relaxation.
Midfielders Stephen Maher and Tom Miller were terrier-like in the tackle while the returning JJ Melligan picked up the pieces and set the passing movements in motion. And it would get better from there for the Oriel faithful, when another top-class Ross Gaynor delivery was flicked goalwards by Gary Breen, with Neale Fenn providing the decisive touch.
Dundalk pressed again and Danny Murphy fluffed a clearance into the path of the elusive Melligan, who emerged from a tangle of bodies to clinically find the bottom corner, before ill-advisedly wheeling away to celebrate in front of the travelling support.
But it wasn't game over. O'Neill sent for the cavalry, and the previously anonymous Twigg demonstrated his worth by reacting quickest to a Price flick from a long Stephen Rice throw to halve the deficit with 25 minutes remaining.
However, with 10 minutes left a second yellow for Chambers set off a domino effect of events off the park. Firstly, the incandescent O'Neill was ordered to the stands and the tension carried over onto the terraces, with a section of Rovers' support leaving their segregated area and moving towards the halfway line, in front of the main stand where the majority of Dundalk fans were situated. Sensing the potential danger, Twigg, to his credit, was first over to try and calm down the intruders. He had little joy.
Belatedly, the guards stepped in and, with missiles being hurled towards security in a lengthy stoppage, the officials contemplated whether to continue with proceedings. They made the decision to go ahead, with riot cops standing in front of the Rovers support, close to the sideline.