MATCH REPORT: Finn Harps 0-3 Shamrock Rovers
Shamrock Rovers returned to winning ways in Ballybofey this evening, defeating Finn Harps thanks to a double from Andy Lyons, and a late penalty from Graham Burke.
Heading into tonight's game, Rovers boss Stephen Bradley made three changes to his side from the one that drew 2-2 with Sligo Rovers in Tallaght a fortnight ago. Into the same came Ronan Finn, Richie Towell & Jack Byrne in place of Barry Cotter, Dylan Watts & Danny Mandroiu - who were all named on the substitutes bench tonight.
For Finn Harps, Ollie Horgan made two changes to his side that defeated Shelbourne in Tolka Park two weeks ago, with Ryan Connolly & Yoyo Mahdy replaced by Erol Erdol Alkan & Eric McWoods respectively.
Rovers started off on the front-foot in Ballybofey, with Graham Burke looking dangerous throughout the ninety minutes. However, it was the home side who came closest early on.
A poor clearance from Jack Byrne on the edge of the Rovers 18-yard box, fell to the feet of Elie N'Zeyi, whose thunderous effort rebounded off Alan Mannus' left-hand post - to the relief of the Northern Irish man.
Rovers began to take control of the game, with Jack Byrne coming deep to retrieve the ball to set the hoops on their way.
Midway through the first-half, after good play down the left-wing, Andy Lyons fed Graham Burke in the Harps box, who turned beyond his man before forcing Mark McGinley into a fantastic save to his right to keep the tie scoreless.
With the game looking to head into the break goalless, the deadlock was broken two minutes into first-half injury time. A Jack Byrne whipped corner found the head of Andy Lyons at the front-post, who guided his header beyond McGinley to open his account for the Hoops, and give Rovers the lead at the break.
Ollie Horgan made some formational changes at half-time, and during the second-half, but struggled to break down the rapid Rovers defensive trio of Hoare, Lopes & Grace.
Harps' best chance of the second-half came in the 60th minute, when Ethan Boyle's looping header from a Rob Slevin cross nicked off the crossbar, to the disappointment of the home fans.
One become two for Lyons with just eleven minutes remaining. A mazy run from the former Bohemians man down the left-wing, before a neat one-two with Gaffney and then firing beyond McGinley to double the Hoops lead, and celebrate in front of the travelling Hoops support.
Things got even more interesting with four minutes on the clock, when Mark McGinley took down Rory Gaffney inside the Harps box and was shown a straight red-card by referee Rob Harvey, who pointed to the spot for Stephen Bradley's side. And with all their allocated substitution periods having been used up, Bastein Hery was forced to face Graham Burke's penalty in goal for the Donegal side.
Unsurprisingly, Burke calmly slotted his penalty beyond Hery to make sure all three points were returning to Tallaght, as Rovers climbed up to second in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table.
Harps have a quick turn-around, as they host Drogheda United on Monday night, in a re-arranged fixture from earlier on in the season. Kick-off in Finn Park is at 8pm.
Meanwhile for Shamrock Rovers, the Hoops travel to their city rivals Shelbourne next Friday night, in a 7:45pm kick-off.
Finn Harps: McGinley; Boyle, Tourish, Webster (C), Carrillo (77' Timlin); Alkan (46' Slevin), McNamee, N'Zeyi, Rainey (35' Mahdy); McWoods (77' Hery), Mihaljevic.
Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Hoare, Lopes, Grace (68' Gannon); Finn (C) (88' Emakhu), O'Neill, Towell (88' Kavanagh), Lyons; Byrne, Gaffney (88' Watts), Burke (88' Greene).