SSE Airtricity League Premier (League of Ireland)

Shamrock Rovers 1

(Graham Burke)

St Patricks Athletic 1

(Christy Fagan)

Attendance: 3,925

Tallaght Stadium

So here it is, the final game of my 2016/17 adventure. My season was 335 days long, exactly 11 months, working out around a game every 2.4 days.

It has been a great season from start to finish, never in a million years did I think I would watch that many games and what a way to end the season abroad (technically).

I wanted a trip away in June, preferably somewhere that the football season was still running. My girlfriend, backpacking around Asia and me at a loose end, my dad and I arranged a weekend away in Dublin!

Both booked the time off work, my old man sorted the hotel and his flight from Manchester and I sorted out my flights from Southampton. We had a few options for a game, all options on the Friday night, I was half hoping to be able to do a game Friday and Saturday but it wasn’t to be.

For no real reason we picked Shamrock Rovers versus St Patricks Athletic. Looking back out of the three Dublin games on that night we picked the only game that produced any goals, which was a bonus!

Dad got the tickets online about a week before the game, the South Dublin derby seemed fairly full with the official attendance showing the ground was just over half full. The tickets were €15 each which wasn’t too bad for football that I can only compare as the equivalent of our League One/ League Two (if I am being nice).

Either way, a trip away, some quality time with my dad, plenty of Guinness and of course a football match was the makings of a top weekend.

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The Ground

Tallaght Stadium is an impressive ground and probably the perfect size for the standard of the Irish League.

The ground is a little bit of a trek from the city centre, but fairly straight forward to get to on the tram. We hopped on the red line Luas Tram at Busarus and it was about €5 each return to Tallaght which was right at the other end of the line (about 45 minutes on the tram).

Once you get off the tram and cross the road, along with plenty of other commuting fans, you see the ground and its only two stands that run down adjacent sides of the pitch. We headed into the club shop which was a fair size and stocked all your usual merchandise, scarves, mugs, shirts etc. The closest thing to a pin badge I could purchase was a small round badge that had a picture of the mascot, Hooperman, on it. (It will do for the collection I suppose).

Dad had got the tickets printed off so after a quick pat down by the stewards we went through the turnstile and into the ground. The beauty of the ground was that it was unreserved seating. Very relaxed inside as fans were able to roam around and pick their seat. I grabbed a programme for €4 that I thought was steep, however it was a joint programme from their match with Bray Wanderers the Tuesday previous.

The Tallaght Stadium was built in 2009 and many new builds usually have that same fresh feel, the generic look with little history etc. You didn’t get that same generic feel here. Not having terracing behind either was unique. Some not so attractive fencing behind the goal deterred anybody who may have wanted to stand there and the opposite end seemed to be a show court for a car dealer? (I may have been wrong with that presumption). Behind the goal where we entered they had a selection of food outlets ranging from sweets and chocolate to Papa Johns Pizza slices and your usual burgers, chips, Bovril etc.

There was also some entertainment for the kids with a giant inflatable dart board with a Velcro football to kick at the target. The atmosphere before the game was good, we sat just behind the dugouts about midway up the stand and had a great view of the game. Special mention for seeing Damien Duff warming the home side up, the former Chelsea and Newcastle player is a coach for Rovers. The seating can be best described as abstract, green and white cover the majority but there are dashes of yellow and red at the last blocks of seats at each end, not sure if there is any meaning behind it but it adds a bit of colour.

The away fans were situated at one end of the stand that dad and I chose to sit in, there were in full voice and unleashed a lot of flairs, giving you a continental feel to what is a very English place. The home ultras were on the opposite sides, chanting accompanied by a drum and plenty of big flags.

If any readers do fancy a trip to Dublin, I would totally recommend going to watch Shamrock Rovers, the place seemed friendly and the standard wasn’t as bad as many would think. I visited Bohemians during the weekend and their ground is much older if you are looking for something more traditional.

For any ground hoppers, a trip to Dublin is great, if you can squeeze a game in over a weekend then that is a bonus but in terms of visiting stadiums you have Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium as well as a handful of Irish League sides dotted around the outskirts of the city. I fully recommend doing the stadium tour of Croke Park, more focus on GAA games but very interesting and an impressive venue.

Like I said before Rovers were very welcoming and I managed to grab a team sheet from the press box when they found out I was visiting from England, so kudos to the Rovers media team for helping me out.

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The Game

Basement side St Patricks Athletic snatched a late draw against local rivals Shamrock Rovers as both sides couldn’t be separated in a 1-1 draw.

Former Aston Villa youth Graham Burke put Rovers ahead in the first half before Christy Fagan pulled the scores level in the second half. Rovers were reduced to ten men with the game level when Burke received his marching orders setting up a nervy end to the game.

Rory Feely had the game’s early chance for the visitors when he worked a good opportunity on the left wing, cutting inside before deploying a low drive straight into the hands of Rovers ‘keeper Tomer Chencinski.

The first goal of the game came on 16 minutes when Rovers regained possession inside St Pats’ half from an opposition throw in, Gary Shaw played the ball into Burke who raced into the box before putting the ball through Conor O’Malley’s legs and into the back of the net.

O’Malley was then forced into the double save to keep the score down when he punched away Burke’s testing free kick before diving at the feet of Ryan Connolly to deny the former Derby County midfielder.

Rovers were enjoying most of the possession in a poor first half for the visitors struggling at the bottom of the table as Burke sent another shot at goal, this time just wide of the mark.

The home side got complacent and as Lee Desmond latched onto Chencinski’s casual pass out from the back before sending Christy Fagan through but his curling effort was no where near the standard it should have been to trouble the goalkeeper.

St Pats came out for the second half with a little wind in their sails, winger Conan Byrne being the biggest threat for the visitors. They soon pulled the scores level when Byrne won the ball back with a tenacious run before the ball fell to Fagan who rifled the ball into the top corner from just inside the area.

Liam Buckley’s men went close to taking the lead Fagan this time turning provider as he sent Byrne away on the right wing, only for the shot to just go wide across the face of goal.

Rovers were falling apart and Pats looked like they could have won the game, this time the ball was worked well on the left and found overlapping full back Ian Bermingham who crossed to Jonathan Lunney who hit the ball right at Chencinski.

The turning point in the game came on 78 minutes when former Notts County front man Burke kicked out at Patrick Cregg after the pair had tangled and the referee was given no choice but to show a straight red card.

Moments later Chencinski managed to save his blushes when he was nearly lobbed from a free kick taken from inside the St Pats half. Byrne fired a quick effort at goal to catch the ‘keeper off his line but the Rovers number one managed to scramble back and tip the ball over the bar.

Rovers hung on in the final moments to protect their point in a game that so could have easily gone either way.

2016/17 Games: 136

2016/17 Grounds: 71 (14)

Total Grounds Visited: 159 (45)

FINAL GAME OF MY 2016/17 Season! Please keep up to date with my football adventure by following @TerraceTrav on Twitter or Terrace Traveller on Facecbook. My next game should be early July and I look forward to bringing you all on my journey.

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