Shamrock Rovers 2 (K. Brennan 65, Clarke 83), Bray Wanderers 0
Premier Division, Tallaght, 29 Apr 2016
What had begun to look like a creditable goal-less draw away in Tallaght took a turn for the worse shortly after the hour when Sean Harding got his marching orders for a last man foul on Dean Clarke.
Not only did Killian Brennan score from the ensuing free, but the advantage in numbers allowed Rovers to double their advantage twenty minutes later.
Up to then they had had difficulty breaching a Bray defence that had kept them at bay successfully despite the absence of Hugh Douglas, and with Alan Byrne and Paul Finnegan on the injured list.
While not unexpected in terms of the form book, the loss leaves the Seagulls mired in the bottom of the table, and badly in need of a win (or two) to take them out of the scramble.
Some early pressure from Bray resulted in a corner in the opening moments, the visitors sharper with the hosts adopting a surprise five man midfield for the opening exchanges with Stephen McPhail making his first start in a deep role.
But the Hoops settled in quickly, Killian Brennan trying to lob Peter Cherrie but it never troubled the keeper.
Then a cross from McPhail on the left had Cherrie flapping but luckily it landed at the feet of a defender to clear.
Harding was probably lucky not to go in referee Tom’s Connolly’s book earlier than he did, after a couple of fouls mid-way through the half, the first on Gary McCabe who was returning after suspension, with Pat Cregg clipped for the second.
Just inside the half hour, Killian Brennan had a free in a threatening position but it flew over the bar. Bray responded similarly, Harding too high after Killian Brennan had handled.
Then a Gavin Brennan back pass high in the sky found Murphy to control with Bray coming goalwards.
Approaching the break, the referee got in the way of a Bray player, allowing Brandon Miele to play Clarke down the left but he slices his cross and it goes out for a goal kick.
Drew Lewis got the first proper save out of Murphy with an early second half shot from outside the box that the Rovers’ keeper caught diving forward after David Webster got a touch which took the sting out of it.
Miele needed attention minutes later after he was caught late by Harding, and Alan McNally likewise went down awkwardly from a tangle of legs with Dean Clarke. McNally is now the all-time 25th player to reach 450 League appearances.
Pat Cregg finally found some space behind Bray on the hour mark, his pull back from the line scuffed by McCabe.
And Bray immediately came close to breaking the deadlock, Karl Moore picking out Ryan Brennan who flicked the ball to Lewis, Murphy saving with his legs.
Moments later, Clarke raced clear down the left for Rovers, but couldn’t force his effort inside the post with Cherrie rushing out.
Then Clarke latched on to a hopeful ball over the top and was through on goal, Harding taking him down last man right on the edge of the box.
Killian Brennan drilled the resulting free kick on goal which takes a small deflection on its way to Cherrie who managed to get one hand on the shot, but could do nothing more to prevent it finding the back of the net.
A Madden cross was laid off by Rovers substitute Danny North to McCabe who again failed to connect properly.
As the clock ran down, Madden was starting to get more freedom down the right. He put in a dangerous cross but there was no-one on the end of it.
With only seven minutes left, North slid in Madden on the right again. Madden had managed to find a pocket of space just in behind the Bray defence, and after taking a brief touch, delivered a grounded cross to Clarke who was in the right place to turn in Madden’s cross despite the presence of two Bray defenders.
In the final minute of normal time, a ball over the top for North was hit with a first time volley but it went straight into the hands of Cherrie.
Bray Wanderers: 1 Peter Cherrie; 24 Sean Harding, 5 Alan McNally, 4 Conor Kenna (c), 11 Jason Marks; 16 Dylan Connolly, 21 Robbie Creevy, 7 Ryan Brennan, 10 Karl Moore; 17 Ger Pender; 18 Andrew Lewis
Subs: 3 Curtis Murphy, 8 Mark Salmon (for Connolly 82), 13 Daniel Blackbyrne, 15 Sean Noble, 22 Darragh Noone (for Pender 83), 23 Gareth McDonagh (for Lewis 65), 50 Aaron Shanahan (gk)
Shamrock Rovers: 1 Barry Murphy; 17 Simon Madden, 4 David Webster, 2 Robert Cornwall, 15 Gavin Brennan (yc); 10 Brandon Miele, 16 Patrick Cregg, 37 Stephen McPhail (c), 11 Killian Brennan, 7 Gary McCabe; 18 Dean Clarke
Subs: 9 Daniel North (for Cregg 64), 20 Trevor Clarke (for D Clarke 84), 22 Sean Boyd, 23 Sean Heaney, 24 Richard Purdy, 25 Craig Hyland (gk), 27 Gareth McCaffrey
Referee: Tomas Connolly
Compiled by Micheal O’hUanachain