Shamrock Rovers 3 Sligo Rovers 0
Long regarded through his teens as Ireland's next big thing, Jack Byrne provided the firmest evidence we have seen from him so far in a Shamrock Rovers shirt of just what it is he is really capable of as the Dubliners extended their lead at the top of the table to four points.
The former Manchester City midfielder managed a goal, an assist and a key role in the home side’s other goal of what turned into a fairly pedestrian victory late on. For their part, Sligo Rovers resisted well enough for a while but scarcely ever threatened until they started to chase things, at which point the locals simply put them away.
Liam Buckley’s side had come, it seemed, to sit deep, absorb all the pressure the hosts could put them under and then try as best they could to hit the league leaders on the break.
The approach left Ronan Coughlan looking pretty lonely up front while the locals had all the time in the world to build from the back. They looked supremely comfortable for the most part as they did that and so the only test was going to be how well they managed to open up their opponents inside the last third. For a long time, that side of things could have been considerably more impressive.
With Mick McCarthy, Stephen Kenny and a string of coaches from their teams there to watch, Byrne will surely have caught the eye, though, for the way he moved the ball and, late on, for his goal. The Dubliner repeatedly drifted inside from the right to find pockets of space from which to pick a pass. Outside him, Joey O'Brien would overlap and up front Aaron Greene persistently sought to nip in behind the Sligo centre backs.
A couple of close-run offsides and one or two improvised clearances aside, the visitors got by well enough, though; at least until a Byrne corner from the left sailed through a cluster of nodding heads and Dan Carr wrapped an outstretched left leg around it to volley home first time.
Buckley sought to change things at the break but the Dubliners continued to dominate and there was now fractionally more room for them to push into. Carr missed badly before Ronan Finn produced a much more ruthless finish with 25 minutes remaining with Byrne having started things by dispossessing David Cawley. Greene then missed something of a sitter.
Sligo, to be fair, stepped things up slightly and might have one back through Coughlan, who couldn’t quite hit the target from close range as he turned sharply.
They were completely put away with eight minutes remaining when Byrne rounded off a fine night with a cracking goal from distance. It remains to be seen what a player in this league would have to do to get into a squad of McCarthy’s but the 22-year-old might just have done enough to plant a seed here.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Mannus; O'Brien, Lopes, Grace, Clarke (S Kavanagh, 69 mins); Bolger; Byrne, McEneff, Finn (Watts, 67 mins), Carr (Coustrain, 80 mins); Greene.
SLIGO ROVERS: Beeney; Morahan, Callan-McFadden, Mahon, Banks; Dunleavy; Twardek, Murray (Fordyce, 78 mins), Cawley (Warde, 78 mins), Parkes (Kerrigan, half-time); Coughlan.
Referee: R Rogers (Dublin).