Kenny’s in heaven as Lilywhites down his old club Shamrock Rovers
Dundalk close gap on league-leaders to just one point
Dundalk’s Kurtis Byrne celebrates scoring the third against Shamrock Rovers. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny instructs his charges during the game against old club Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
DUNDALK 3 SHAMROCK ROVERS 1: A brace from Patrick Hoban and an emphatic finish from Kurtis Byrne moved Dundalk to just one point behind leaders St Patrick’s and all but slammed the door on Shamrock Rovers’ title bid.
The Lilywhites duo, who had never kicked a ball in the League of Ireland top flight before this season, have now scored 16 league goals between them to propel Kenny’s side firmly into the title race.
Rovers arrived at Oriel Park unbeaten in four previous meetings between the sides in all competitions this season. In fact, the last time Dundalk beat the Hoops was back in September 2010 – some 13 games ago – when they won 5-1 at the Border venue.
The home side were looking to stretch their advantage over Rovers to 10 points with just 10 games to play and they got off to the perfect start after just 96 seconds.
Sloppy back pass
Conor Powell’s sloppy back pass left goalkeeper Richard Brush stranded and Hoban showed great composure to take the ball around the goalkeeper and settle himself before hooking the ball into an empty net.
Stephen O’Donnell smacked a free-kick straight at Brush in the 8th minute before Dundalk’s second goal arrived eight minutes later.
Darren Meenan, who saw a free-kick just seconds earlier hit the first man, delivered a wonderful corner from the right and Hoban rose, unchallenged, to plant a header past Brush to send the home supporters into overdrive.
The Oriel Park faithful were in raptures at this stage and they were almost celebrating again one minute later. Towell raced through on the inside right and drilled a fierce drive past the far post, with Hoban inches away from adding a finishing touch.
Trevor Croly’s men were thrown a barely deserved lifeline in the 44th minute when Seán O’Connor jinked his way towards the Dundalk penalty area before laying the ball off for Karl Sheppard to curl a delightful effort into Cherrie’s left hand corner.
Rovers attempted to up their game at the start of the second half and Jason McGuinness forced Peter Cherrie into a spectacular, if straightforward, stop in the 50th minute.
There was a feeling that the next goal would be crucial in dictating the outcome of the game and it arrived Dundalk’s way in the 54th minute.
Andy Boyle rose to meet a Meenan free-kick at the back post and Brush could only palm the ball straight into the path of Byrne who slammed the ball home from close range.
Rovers huffed and puffed in a bid to retrieve the situation but the closest they came was in the 83rd minute when Cherrie somehow managed to block Sheppard’s deflected effort.
And the visitors’ miserable night was summed up in the 86th minute when Stephen Rice was shown a straight red card for lashing out at Chris Shields, just six minutes after being introduced as a sub.
DUNDALK: Cherrie; Sullivan, Gartland, Boyle, Shields; O’Donnell, Towell, Dillon (McCaffrey 76); Meenan, Hoban 8 (Faherty 87), Byrne (Mulvenna 84).
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Brush; McCormack, Oman, McGuinness, Powell; Robinson, Chambers (Rice 80), O’Connor (McCabe 63), Dennehy (Stewart 73); Sheppard, Zayed.
Referee: Alan Kelly (Cork).