Brilliant Dublin derby between Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians had absolutely everything 2 months ago

Brilliant Dublin derby between Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians had absolutely everything

The Dublin derby was like a game from the golden era of the league.

In the 1950s, in a city with almost 100,000 people unemployed, with emigration at record levels and the country in a state of cultural and economic stagnation, League of Ireland games offered an exhilarating break from the drudgery of everyday life. This was a time when the Dublin derby games attracted crowds of over 20,000 people. At this point, the problem was keeping fans out rather than enticing them to attend.

The league has had many ups and downs since the "Golden Era" of the 1950s. The days of mass attendance on this scale at Irish domestic games faded decades ago. However, on Tuesday night at Tallaght Stadium, the same principles were at play. Once again, a Dublin derby was the hottest ticket in town. There were 6,414 in attendance at Tallaght Stadium to watch Bohemians record a 1-0 victory over Shamrock Rovers.

This was the biggest tie in Irish club football so far this season, a meeting of two of the best teams in the country. And it felt like it.

An hour before kick-off, queues at the turnstiles snaked back. Mick McCarthy and Robbie Keane were in attendance, Stephen Kenny too, sitting three rows in front of the man he will replace as Ireland manager in August 2020.

Bohemians sold out their entire allocation of tickets, they warned fans not to travel to Tallaght without one and took 1,100 supporters across the city. Both sets of supporters made their presence felt long before a ball was kicked. They chanted and clapped almost in unison, at times it felt like they were involved in a call and response. One chant would die down as the other began. Announcements on the PA system were difficult to make out.

The atmosphere infused and framed a brilliant contest between two really accomplished sides. Jack Byrne, who has been the best player in Ireland since returning home, started brightly, collecting the ball from his central defenders and spraying passes out wide for Trevor Clarke at left full-back or over the top for Aaron Greene up front. The Rovers midfielder wanted the ball in every situation or phase of play, regardless of how many Bohemians players were nearby. His flicks and deft passes moved his teammates around and opened up space that had not previously appeared there.

On the other side, Danny Grant caused Rovers trouble down the right with his pace and linked up well with Danny Mandriou, who played as the team's most advanced midfielder and created space with his intelligent movement and clever passes. Dinny Corcoran led the line and Derek Pender set the tone with a committed, aggressive performance at right-back.

Byrne created the first clear-cut chance of a breathless and controversial first half. The Manchester City academy graduate whipped in a pinpoint free-kick from the edge of the Bohemians penalty area, finding Ronan Finn, who had won the set-piece. The Rovers skipper connected with a glancing header but saw the ball hit the frame of the goal. A couple of minutes later, Aaron McEneff was sent through one on one with the Bohs goalkeeper after a floated pass over the defence from Dylan Watts. James Talbot rushed off his line and made a brave block.

Ultimately, that was as good as it got for the home side. With the match moving towards the half an hour mark, Trevor Clarke was sent off for pulling back Danny Grant on the edge of the Rovers' penalty area.

Clarke had been one of the best players on the pitch until that point, winning several tackles - one of which sent a piercing echo around Tallaght Stadium when the leather of his boot collided with the ball. He had been a vital attacking outlet down the left.

The Ireland under-21 international trudged off the pitch, head bowed, as Bohs fans chanted, "Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio." The Rovers supporters behind the goal had a chant of their own for the referee.

Stephen Bradley was forced to reshuffle his team. But the headache was about to get much worse for the Rovers head coach.

Just 10 minutes after Clarke saw red, the home side were down to nine men. Lee Grace received a second yellow after referee Paul McLaughlin adjudged that the defender blocked the ball with his hand.

Replays later showed that it was his face, rather than his hand, that stopped the ball.

Corcoran stepped-up, hit his penalty low to Alan Mannus' left and saw his shot saved.

There were gasps from the Bohemians travelling contingent and the Rovers supporters began to celebrate - only for Corcoran to capitalise on the rebound and bundle the ball home.

Bohemians fans could now celebrate.

Rovers reshuffled again, deploying a rarely seen 4-3-1 formation. It was a slog from that point for Bradleys's team.

Bohemians had most of the possession, the travelling support were in full voice and Rovers found it extremely difficult to get up the pitch.

The biggest cheer of the night from the home support came when the referee awarded a free-kick on the edge of the Bohs penalty area an hour into the game.

Yet, somehow, Rovers arguably created the better openings in the second half, as Bohemians' final ball was often disappointing.

Roberto Lopes prodded an effort at goal following a knockdown in the box, only to see the ball drift wide of the goal.

The impressive Mandriou had a few attempts and was clear through on goal late in the game, about to be one on one with Mannus, only for Stephen Finn to sprint back and heroically win the ball.

At the final whistle, boos filled Tallaght Stadium, some Rovers fans congregated above to tunnel to have one final go at the referee and Bohemians supporters chanted that they were going to win the league as their players took a bow in front of them. They have moved into second place and within five points of their rivals, who remain top of the league.

Beyond the result, this felt like a big night for Irish football, one worthy of the storied history of these clubs and football in the city. Like all those years ago, when the Dublin derby was the hottest ticket in town, and a northside team faced off against a southside team at the top of the league, the problem for the clubs here was keeping fans out, rather than getting them through the door.

Tuesday night at Tallaght Stadium had the colour, noise, skill and passion that would have been on display during the golden age of the league or at any big derby throughout European football.