Coleraine 0 (1) Shamrock Rovers 2 (0)
A great result for the Hoops tonight at the Showgrounds.

That’s as far as I got when my mobile phone battery ran out as I travelled on the train back to Belfast, making use of the excellent wi-fi facilities the new rolling stock has. Thanks Translink! Now that I am back home by midnight, I can complete the task and add my photos.

Jay McGuinness

Jason McGuinness

This was a much better performance by Rovers than in the first leg at Tallaght, when they went down 1-0 just before half time. The visiting fans sang their way home to Coleraine, I expect, as they were cheering their team throughout and were still in fine voice when they left Dublin.

It was the other way round though at the Showgrounds in the second leg. Trailing by a single goal, Rovers were quick off the mark and showed a determination that had been lacking in the first leg. Jason McGuinness had the first chance from a free kick, but his effort went wide. Striker Mark Quigley gave them the goal they were looking for in the seventh minute, with a fine six-yard volley.

Coleraine took time to establish themselves and after 27 minutes had their first chance with a Stephen Lowry header. Shane Jennings then sent a shot just wide when a corner was flicked on by Lowry. Ruairi Harkin also came close.

Rovers wind down

Rovers wind down

Eight minutes into the second half, Gary McCabe became the first of three Rovers’ players to receive a yellow card. A James Chambers shot was tipped onto the bar by the Coleraine keeper Michael Doherty and the visitors had another chance within a minute, from the resulting corner. P1100321 (2) (640x526)

Rovers kept up the pressure but it needed two substitutions by manager Trevor Croly before the right combination could be found. Strikers Ciarán Kilduff and Thomas Stewart were brought on in the 69th and 77th minutes respectively.  With two minutes of additional time just called and just as it seemed the match was going into extra time, the decisive strike came, thanks to Kilduff whose shot found the bottom corner of the net after a scramble in the goalmouth. It marked the first win in a competitive match for the new Rovers’ manager, who was appointed in November last year before the start of the new Airtricity League season in March.

In the second round of the Setanta Sport Cup, Shamrock Rovers have been drawn against Linfield, with the first leg at Tallaght on March 4th and the return a week later at Windsor Park, not far away from me on the Lisburn Road. I hope that any true Rovers fans who travel North will be given as hospitable a welcome as they got at the Social Club in Coleraine, where politics was put to one side and sport reigned. This was a truly sporting occasion of cross-border significance and I was also pleased to witness the friendliness of the Coleraine fans who travelled to Tallaght last week. These two Rovers’ supporters arrived in a happy mood and went home to Dublin even happier!

Come on You Hoops!

Come on You Hoops!


Shamrock Rovers v Coleraine

Shamrock Rovers v Coleraine


Back in the days of my youth, I remember seeing one of the matches in a cross-border competition, the Blaxnit Cup. It might have been the second leg of the final at Dalymount Park in May 1968, when Shamrock Rovers lost 2-1 to Crusaders from Belfast, but took the first trophy 3-2 on aggregate. The following season, Rovers were again in the final but lost 4-3 to Coleraine, who went on to retain the trophy the following year by defeating Sligo Rovers in 1970. The Irish League side re-appeared in the 1972 final but went down to Cork Hibernians over two legs. The competition featured four clubs from the League of Ireland and four from the Irish League and it ran until 1974, when it was replaced by the Texaco Cup and then after a break, the Tyler Cup until 1980.

For that reminder about Coleraine’s previous Blaxnit success. I am grateful to David McClarty MLA, who was following my tweets from the ground on facebook. In one of my tweets I mentioned that one of Coleraine FC’s stalwart fans is the actor James Nesbitt, Chancellor of the University of Ulster, who was in Dublin on Saturday for the IFTA awards ceremony.

Since 2005 the all-island club competition has been known as the Setanta Sports Cup. This evening at Tallaght, the Hoops and the Bannsiders renewed their rivalry in the first leg of a first round match. I have been following Rovers at their new stadium over the last two seasons, but I don’t think I have ever seen Coleraine in “live” action.  I was impressed by the visitors and their vocal bunch of around 200 supporters who made the long trip to Dublin from the North-West.

Full Time

Full Time

The new-look home side were playing their first competitive senior game this year, because of the difference in soccer seasons in Northern Ireland and in the Republic. Before the game, one minute’s silence was strictlly observed by the teams and the crowd in memory of Tony Clare, a Rovers supporter who passed away recently. Then it was into action, but I missed the usual roar of the home fans and only one stand was in use. I also noticed that one of the banners behind the goalmouth had a picture of Rovers’ former striker Gary Twigg on it. He is now playing for Portadown in the Irish League, who lost 3-2 at Drogheda in the same competition.

Shamrock Rovers had most of the goal opportunities in the first half, with Mark Quigley unsuccessful on at least three occasions. Five minutes before the break, an injury to Ruairi Harkin forced him to retire and he was replaced by David Scullion. In what was to prove the decisive move of the whole match, in the third minute of first-half injury time, Scullion picked up the ball from Paul Owens and coolly lifted it over the top of the advancing Rovers’ keeper Barry Murphy.  Coleraine had taken the lead against the run of play.

Scullion nearly managed to double his side’s lead ten minutes into the second half. Quigley was replaced in the Hoops attack by Gary McCabe, who was involved in a few good moves along with Sean O’Connor. O’Connor came close with a free kick and McCabe likewise in the dying seconds of the game, when Coleraine had their goalie Michael Doherty to thank for keeping their advantage.

Coleraine fans at Tallaght

Coleraine fans at Tallaght

So the 200 or so Coleraine fans left Tallaght in a very orderly fashion and singing the praises of their team. The two sides will meet again next Monday at The Showgrounds, Ballycastle Road. There were three other cup games (first leg) tonight:-


CORK CITY 4 Morrissey 16, Turner pen 26, 45+1, Kavanagh 69 CLIFTONVILLE 0

DROGHEDA UTD 3 R Brennan 8, O’Connor 14, G Brennan 60 PORTADOWN 2 A Burns 25, Braniff 43