The Dublin derby was the best match in the city this week, yet it won’t have made an impression on some football fans in the country.
Over 36,000 attended the Republic of Ireland’s limp 2-0 victory over Gibraltar on Monday evening. Yes, it was an important Euro 2020 qualifier, a game that will go some way towards deciding whether Ireland reach a tournament they will part host 12 months from now. However, as a spectacle, it was devoid of any moments of interest, excitement or entertainment.
The atmosphere was flat and understandably so – it was a June game against the side ranked 195th in the world.
However, a few days later on the other side of the city, at Dalymout Park, the home of Irish football, a game was taking place that several thousand spectators from the Aviva Stadium would turn their noses up at.
Ironically, there are many Irish football supporters who would consider a League of Ireland game to be “shite” and overlook it because of the so-called poor standard.
Yet, the Dublin derby between Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers was everything the Ireland match wasn’t – a dramatic, exciting game, full of incidents and moments of excellence played out in front of a packed house invested in every kick of the ball, every tackle and save.
Before a ball was kicked in the match – which was won by Bohs 2-1 as they maintained their hoodoo over their rivals – Dalymount was rocking. As the rain pelted down, both sets of supporters let off flares that coloured a corner of the ground a mixture of green and red, making it difficult to see the pitch.
Luke Kelly’s “the auld triangle” played over the PA system and a roar ripped through the smoke as the players made their way onto the pitch. The match started at a breakneck pace and rarely let up.
Jack Byrne and Danny Mandroiu stood out. The Shamrock Rovers midfielder was brilliant in the first half, showing the form that has made him arguably the best player in Ireland over the last few months. Mandroiu was on the fringes of the match but ultimately settled it with two goals, one of which was a moment of skill beyond anything seen at the Aviva Stadium over the last while.
Along with Dylan Watts, Byrne was a torn in the side of Bohs in the opening period. The Dubliner looked for possession in every phase of play, regardless of how many opposition players were around him, and drove forward with the ball.
One move involved almost a dozen passes between Rovers players was led by Byrne, who moved his teammates around with deft flicks and clever passes. For another move, he sprayed a 40-yard pass out to Dan Carr on the left, who failed to control the ball but possession soon landed back with Byrne.
The midfielder then played a short give and go, got the ball back and drove past three Bohemians players 25 yards from their goal. Just when it looked as though he was going to lose possession, he swivelled away and hit a curling shot at James Talbot’s goal that just missed the target.
However, despite Rovers being on top, it was Bohs who took the lead – at the second attempt. Yet again, Keith Long’s side won a penalty after a foul by Byrne on Keith Devaney. Mandroiu stepped up, hit his penalty to the keeper’s right, but saw Alan Mannus save the kick. The Bohs playmaker didn’t have to wait long to make up for his miss though. Four minutes later, Greg Bolger fouled Ryan Swan in the box. Mandroiu slotted it low to Talbot’s right, giving his team the lead and dispatching the ball like the previous penalty hadn’t happened.
Rovers were on top for the remainder of the half. Stephen Bradley’s side played through their rivals time and time again. At one point, a ball into the six-yard box was spilled by Talbot and drifted wide of the goal to Carr, prompting a shout from Bohs fans for the goalkeeper to “get back on your f***ing line.” A shot by Aaron Greene was pushed into the path of Watts, but the follow up went wide.
Rovers were knocking on the door at Dalymount and got their reward six minutes into the second half. Carr poked home following a fantastic reverse pass over the Bohs defence by Ronan Finn.
BOHEMIANS 1-1 Shamrock Rovers.
An excellent ball from Ronan Finn to Dan Carr to slots it home for Shamrock Rovers.
— eir Sport (@eirSport) June 14, 2019
However, as excellent as that piece of skill was by Finn, it was nothing compared to the moment of brilliance a sold-out Dalymount Park was about to witness. Mandroiu scored a goal of such excellence it was worthy of any stage, of any game in any city. The Bohs number seven is a special player, and this was a special strike.
The ball ran to the 20-year-old former Brighton midfielder in space 25 yards from Rovers’ goal. Mandroiu seized up his options, allowed the ball to run across him before unleashing a truly unstoppable shot beyond Mannus and into the top corner
This was hit with his so-called “bad foot.”
— Robert Redmond (@RobRedmond10) June 14, 2019
That strike sent the Jodi Stand into raptures. Limbs were flying everywhere, flares were set off again and Derek Pender, the Bohs captain, reminded the home support that Mandroiu had scored the goal with his weaker left foot as the player celebrated in front of the far corner of the stadium.
The Rovers fans behind the goal had seen the strike fly towards them, and were left deflated. Bohs fans chanted, “Shamrock Rovers, it’s happening again” and it was. This is Bohemians seventh victory against their city rivals in the last eight meetings between the pair – the other ended in a draw.
Rovers pushed for another opening, another chance to draw level, but it wasn’t to be as the Bohs players made several timely blocks, clearances and interceptions. They also should have had another penalty, as Roberto Lopes appeared to clear the ball off the line with his hand, but ultimately it didn’t matter. Bohs had won the Dublin derby again, and once again it was a fantastic spectacle. You will struggle to get a better Friday night’s entertainment for just €15, despite what some Irish football fans may think.