Bohemians manager Keith Long admits every game is a cup final between now and the end of the season after they missed out on the FAI Cup showpiece for the second year running.
Bohs were edged out following a replay by Cork City last year. But this one will undoubtedly hurt all the more as it came at the hands of fierce crosstown rivals Shamrock Rovers.
Goals from Graham Burke and ex-Bohs striker Aaron Greene saw the Hoops to a comfortable victory, while Danny Mandroiu was shown a straight red late on to compound the home side’s misery.
It was Mandroiu’s red, for an over-the-ball challenge on Sean Kavanagh, that ended Bohs’ chances of a revival as Greene wrapped up the win four minutes later with a tidy finish.
And Long was quick to concede that his side were second best all over the pitch and didn’t test their visitors enough on the night.
“We didn’t play well tonight and [in other games against Rovers] we have played well, we’ve gone toe-to-toe with Rovers,” Long told the Dublin Gazette.
“Tonight, we’ve lost and we’ve come up short. We lacked a little bit of quality and conceded a bad goal from a set play.
“You can’t give goals away. You’ve got to keep a clean sheet and ask questions of their goalkeeper. None of those things we did tonight, unfortunately.”
Last month’s meeting in Tallaght was the first time in two-and-a-half years the Hoops had beaten Bohs, courtesy of Burke’s first-half header.
The on-loan Preston North End striker repeated the trick on Friday night with just five minutes on the clock with a wonderfully-taken headed goal from Jack Byrne’s corner.
Keith Buckley vacated his station on the near post to make space for the finish, but Bohs can be aggrieved by the award of the corner as replays clearly showed the ball hit Greene’s foot last.
It was a game of few chances but Burke thought he’d wrapped it up with a delightful dink only for Paddy Kirk to somehow head off the line.
Bohs’ challenge faded after Mandroiu was sent off with 14 minutes remaining and Greene sealed the win with a fine finish from Ronan Finn’s pinpoint cross.
Focus for Long will necessarily switch to securing a European spot through the league where, courtesy of Dundalk’s win over Sligo Rovers, a fourth-placed finish will be enough.
Derry City’s win over Cork City in their game in hand saw them move into third, while St Patrick’s Athletic are just two points behind Bohs in fifth with four games remaining.
“We can choose to feel sorry for ourselves or we can choose to go again next week, and that’s what we’ll have to do,” said Long.
“We’ve got four games left and we’re going to try and win every one of them. They’re all cup finals between now and the end of the season.
“We’ve got three games at home and we’ve got to take full advantage.”