Saints and Hoops poised for top-of-the-table clash

By Hayden Moore

SHAMROCK Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic will put their unbeaten runs on the line on Saturday as the two collide in a much-anticipated top-of-the-table clash.

Very little has separated the two sides in recent times, with the spoils having been shared in their previous four meetings.

Rovers V Pats 127 1

Ronan Coughlan and Roberto Lopes tussle

Remarkably, considering the rich vein of form the Hoops have found themselves in, the Saints were the only team they did not card a win against in their unbeaten 2020 title-winning season.

The most recent encounter came back in March in what was the curtain raiser for the league season at Tallaght Stadium.

Again, both sides had their fair share of chances and the three points looked to be heading the way of the Saints after Roberto Lopes turned a low cross into his own net with just three minutes of regulation time remaining.

But the Hoops found a breakthrough when Sean Hoare’s ball into the box found Aaron Greene and he turned it home to clinch a valuable point.

Over the first round of fixtures, Stephen O’Donnell’s men have emerged as serious title challengers with six wins and three draws notched up.

A 1-1 draw against Sligo Rovers on Monday saw them lose a little ground on Rovers who carded their fifth win in succession that same day.

Indeed Stephen Bradley’s side recorded a 3-0 dismantling of Waterford in what marked their 31st game without defeat, breaking the all-time League of Ireland record set by the club itself way back in 1926.

The trio of Graham Burke, Rory Gaffney and Daniel Mandroiu have hit the ground running for the Hoops this season with each bagging three goals so far.

Certainly Burke appears to be rejuvenated since initially re-joining Rovers on-loan from Preston North End, and now signing a pre-contact agreement for a permanent return.

The void left behind by the departures of star players Aaron McEneff and Jack Byrne appears less significant now that Mandroiu has ignited his time with the Hoops in top form.

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