Kenny salutes Twigg's brace
IRISH interest in Irish football appears to have ended with the national team's exit from Euro 2012, if last night's action in the League of Ireland is any sort of barometer.
As the domestic season got back to business last night on a rainy evening in Dublin, after a mid-season break to accommodate Euro 2012, the old rivals of Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers came together for a Dublin derby and served up some passion, excitement and goals, elements which were sadly lacking from Ireland's limp displays at the Euros.
But it is a source of regret and steep concern that only 1,889 punters paid in to witness this 3-2 win for Rovers, which saw Stephen Kenny's men move to within five points of league leaders Sligo Rovers.
An estimated 20,000 Irish fans traipsed around Poland hoping to snaffle tickets for Ireland's group games at Euro 2012, but there were, sadly, plenty of empty seats at Tolka Park last night. A pity, as those who stayed away missed a superb Dublin derby.
While Rovers fans will gleefully celebrate the 3-2 win which sets them up for next week's game away to Bohemians, any neutrals on the night would have come away hugely impressed with Shels' second goal of the night from journeyman striker Philip Hughes.
The winning goal, 10 minutes from time, came from Rovers hero Gary Twigg (his second of the night), and it was a very lucky one as he somehow got his head in the way of a mis-hit shot from Gary McCabe and managed to beat Shels' keeper Dean Delany. Lucky, maybe, but a vital win for Rovers who needed the points after some poor form before the mid-season break.
"It's very important. You can't underestimate that victory, it was a huge win for us," said Rovers boss Kenny afterwards. "To me, there's nothing lucky about Gary Twigg reacting to that, that was a real striker's goal. You still need some skill to direct that into the goal.
"We have played better than last night and dropped points. We played well at home to Cork and Derry but ended up with draws. In those games we dominated but ended up drawing and kicking ourselves at the end so last night was different. We were up and down last night, but it was an important win for us," added Kenny.
It was Shels who drew first blood, with former UCD man Paul Byrne - on his first start for the Reds - getting them in front in the seventh minute with a scrappy finish from a David Cassidy corner-kick.
Rovers' equaliser on 13 minutes had a similar provenance, this time Twigg scoring from close range on the rebound off Dean Delany's save from Graham Gartland's headed effort.
On 18 minutes the game turned in Rovers' favour when Shels midfielder Anto Murphy was shown a straight red card for a foul on Conor McCormack.
Instead of retreating, Shels reacted and upped their game, with Pat Kavanagh and sub Conan Byrne going close.
Veteran forward Hughes scored his best goal of the season on 64 minutes, taking on a pass from Kevin Dawson and ghosting past three Rovers defenders before beating Oscar Jansson with a blistering finish.
McCabe got Rovers level three minutes later, and 10 minutes from time McCabe set up that winning goal for Twigg.
"We deserved at least a point, but I feel sore today because we should have got a result," said Shels boss Alan Mathews.
"A couple of fortuitous goals went against us, we battled well and played some good football and on another night we might have got all three points."