Rovers and North End share spoils
Big guns play out a scoreless draw
The big two in Wexford football couldn't be separated on Sunday as they played out a scoreless stalemate in a blustery Peter Quinn Park.
Shamrock Rovers 0 North End United 0
It's a bit early in the season to be talking about title deciders, but this certainly had the distinct feeling of a game that neither side wanted to lose.
After a cagey opening period the teams finally tried to throw off the shackles after the interval, with both sides creating chances to collect a priceless three points.
North End's Kyle Dempsey came closest to breaking the deadlock in the 59th minute when his wonderful, dipping effort from the edge of the box was touched on to the woodwork by the fingertips of goalkeeper Lee Murphy, minutes after Jamie Fox had struck the home side's best chance straight at goalkeeper Lee Walker.
Goalmouth action was at a premium in the opening quarter as Shamrock Rovers bossed possession but lacked creativity in the final third, and when the Sky Blues attempted to break forward the ball wasn't sticking as striker Andy Moore found himself isolated up front.
Shamrock Rovers were missing influential playmaker James Carty, who was serving the final game of a suspension, and his creativity and guile was certainly missed as the hosts pushed North End back but struggled to find the killer pass to unlock the defence.
Rovers did manage to carve out an opening in the 17th minute when Ricky Dwyer arrowed a pass through to Eamonn O'Brien and, although his shot wriggled past goalkeeper Walker, it lacked sufficient pace to cross the whitewash and Declan Downes slid in to avert the danger.
The reigning Premier Division champions went even closer in the 29th minute when an Alan Freeman header fell into the path of Jamie Fox, but Walker got down smartly to his right to save his first-time effort.
North End found it difficult to impose themselves on the game in the first-half but they did have a sight of goal in the 32nd minute when Keith Kearney headed a Jason Murphy free-kick over the bar.
The Wexford town side began the second period with a far greater intensity and threatened to breach the Shamrock Rovers defence just four minutes after the turnaround.
Gary Byrne did well to fire in a cross from the right wing and John Fenlon's acrobatic effort on the turn had netminder Lee Murphy scrambling to make the save.
Five minutes later the breakthrough almost came at the other end when Jamie Fox saw his shot snuffed out by Walker, after good build-up play involving Ricky Dwyer and Eamonn O'Brien, while Martin McKeown was off target with the follow-up.
Kyle Dempsey then came agonisingly close to shooting North End ahead just before the hour mark, but his enterprising effort with the outside of his right boot from the edge of the area rattled the underside of the crossbar after netminder Murphy stretched brilliantly to get the slightest of touches on the ball.
In a frenetic final ten minutes both sides pushed for a winner, with Declan Downes heading a difficult chance from a Gary Byrne corner wide, while Shamrock Rovers substitute Marty Kelly twice tried his luck, seeing his shot from outside the area deflected over for a corner and another effort blocked by the defence.
Ricky Fox, who was on the ball as much as anybody during the game, fired a shot over the bar and two minutes before the end he sent a cross into the danger zone, but substitute Seamus McDonald couldn't generate enough power on his header to trouble Lee Walker.
Shamrock Rovers: Lee Murphy, Alan Freeman, Mikey Dempsey, Podge Doyle, Dan Carroll, Jamie Fox, Ricky Dwyer, Ricky Fox, Emmet Quirke, Eamonn O'Brien, Martin McKeown. Subs. - Marty Kelly for J. Fox, Seamus McDonald for Quirke, Eoin McDonald for Dempsey, also Trevor Breen, Seán Allen.
North End United: Lee Walker, Warren Broaders, Keith Kearney, Robin Dempsey, Declan Downes, John Fenlon, Gary Byrne, Lee Wadding, Jason Murphy, Kyle Dempsey, Andy Moore. Subs. - Adam Beary for Moore, Paul Murphy for J. Murphy, Robert Dempsey for Byrne, also Daryll Power, Lee Smith, Stuart Lawlor, Noel Heffernan.
Referee: Derek Campion.