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Shamrock Rovers 1-0 St Patrick's Athletic

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Ronan Finn celebrates the only goal of the game against St Pat's

Ronan Finn celebrates the only goal of the game against St Pat's

SPORTSFILE

Ronan Finn celebrates the only goal of the game against St Pat's

Young and old combined, in perfect harmony, for Shamrock Rovers as they recovered from some bruising defeats to keep their title bid very much on course.

Ronan Finn and Brandon Kavanagh are in different phases of their careers, Finn making his League of Ireland debut when Kavanagh was just seven years old.

Midfield has been key for the Hoops in their rise to the top of the table this season and last night was another example as midfielders Finn and Kavanagh worked their magic and worked their way to the goal, which gave Rovers the 1-0 derby win.

It was a goal from the training ground but one scored in the heat of a derby battle, an intricate move involving Kavanagh and Finn with the veteran finishing it off in front of 3,920 paying customers.

That win keeps intact their four-point lead on the chasing pack, featuring Dundalk and Bohemians, both sides winning away last night, a sign that they very much intend to stay in the title race.

Teenage talent has found a home at Rovers of late: Gavin Bazunu was in the first team last season and is now learning his trade with Manchester City, the keeper will also on view to the crowd at his old stomping ground of Tallaght Stadium on Friday when he plays for the Ireland U17s.

James Furlong made his league debut last weekend while Brandon Kavanagh relished his starting role last night, the 18-year-old looking like a real talent.

Pat's had hit form just in time for this derby, the Saints travelling across the city for the Luas Derby with a run of three straight wins.

But those wins had all come against teams in the bottom half of the table as, apart from an admirable success over reigning champions Dundalk, Pat's had failed to get anything from the sides in the top four.

They did look as if they could take the game to Rovers, Mikey Drennan, a former Hoops player, with the first effort of the game on five minutes when he fired wide from a Simon Madden cross.

Rovers are a patient side, who tend to let the game settle and suss out their opponents before turning the screw.

Which they did last night. The home side came close to a lead goal on 11 minutes, Lee Grace with a header from a nice cross by Finn, the effort off target.

Attempt

Rovers did have an attempt on target on 25 minutes, the first of many well-worked moves. Started by Joey O'Brien, play included Aaron Greene and Aaron McEneff, the Derry native getting in sight of goal and Pat's needed a save from Brendan Clarke to keep them in it.

But 11 minutes from half-time, Rovers played theirway into the lead with a passing move that will be watched back on YouTube time and again, by the players involved and their supporters. Finn played in Kavanagh, he took his time, despite the pressure of being in possession in the box, and cut the ball back to Finn, who slotted home his second goal of the season.

Pat's were a goal down but not downhearted as they mustered up something of a fightback in the second half with Chris Forrester on as a sub for the injured Rhys McCabe seven minutes after the restart.

They troubled Alan Manus in the Rovers goal for the first time on 64 minutes, Ian Bermingham with a powerful header, while at the other end, sub Dan Carr was causing problems for Pat's, though he should have done better when he was set up by Greene on 74 minutes. Then a Greene header, resulting from Jack Byrne's corner, came off the woodwork.

The Saints' subs were threatening to have a real impact as Dean Clarke forced a superb save from Mannus on 82 minutes, and from the subsequent corner-kick, Forrester got possession but fired into the side netting.

With just that narrow lead there was some tension among the home support late on, especially when Pat's got an injury-time free-kick but James Doona's effort was wide, so the Hoops got back that winning feeling, with a clean sheet as a bonus.