Rovers return to winning ways
Stephen Kenny sees run of away victories ended by former club
Shamrock Rovers 1 Dundalk 0
It would need to be the start of something quite remarkable if Shamrock Rovers are really to play their way back into the title race but after their draw against Sligo at the weekend, a winning start to the campaign’s second round of games will generate hope amongst the optimists in the stands and much needed confidence for players whose next outing will be in the Setanta Cup final.
Sean O’Connor’s goal, scored three minutes into stoppage time at the end of the first half, was all that separated the sides at the end but really the victory was more convincing than the scoreline would suggest with Trevor Croly’s side dominating the game for long spells and almost monopolising its clearcut chances.
Dundalk started out eight points and three places above their rivals in the table and with a record on the road that was far superior to that of the Dubliners’ here in Tallaght. Maintaining their run of away wins always looked a tall order for Stephen Kenny’s men, though, especially after the improvement shown by the locals on Friday night.
As the game took shape it started to look more unlikely still for the visitors were quickly put on the back foot and found it difficult to get the game even into the middle third of the pitch at times. Karl Sheppard was again impressive up front but behind him Ronan Finn, Gary McCabe and O’Connor all caused their share of problems for a defence that looked more than a little hesitant at times.
Fortunately for them, Peter Cherrie was on song with the goalkeeper making a couple of good stops from Sheppard towards the end of the first half and then one quite brilliant one as Finn sought to follow up a Danny Ledwith shot that had crashed off the foot of the post early in the second.
There was little the goalkeeper could have been expected to do for the goal, though, with Andy Boyle sort of handing it on a plate to O’Connor when he sent an attempted clearance of Sheppard’s stoppage time ball into the box straight into the Rovers midfielder and then reacted far more slowly to the rebound than his opponent.
The central defender had, he would presumably argue, been a little unfortunate with the bounce of the ball and it did seem harsh on a side that having started to get forward a bit – even if Patrick Hoban had generally failed to make much of the half chances that had come his way – and then got to within seconds of going in for the break on level terms.
Things more than evened themselves up over the course of the second period, though, with the home side looking rampant as they swept forward at times but repeatedly squandering chances to build on their lead.
Cherrie had done well to deny Finn alright but he was virtually a bystander as O’Connor played the ball a yard too far in front of Mark Quigley for the substitute to be able to sidefoot home. Quigley then headed what looked a certain goal wide and, moments later, O’Connor also missed the target.
The visitors started to look a little ragged but as long as Rovers kept passing up the chances they were still in as they reminded their opponents seven minutes from time by breaking downfield and going very close to levelling things up as Richie Towell crossed low for Tiarnan Mulvenna who got to the ball fractionally ahead of Derek Foran but fired just over from close range.
They kept at it for what remained of the game but Rovers looked comfortable as they secured a win they will hope they can build on over the weeks ahead.
Shamrock Rovers: Murphy; Sullivan, Foran, McGuinness, Ledwith; Chambers; McCabe (Dennehy, 56 mins), Finn (Robinson, 82 mins), Rice, O’Connor; Sheppard (Quigley, 70 mins).
Dundalk: Cherrie; Mountney, Sullivan, Boyle, Massey; Towell, O’Donnell; Meenan (McDonnell, 81 mins), Ward (Dillon, 66 mins), Byrne (Mulvenna, 75 mins); Hobam.
Referee: A Buttimer (Cork)