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Thursday 20 June 2019

Jack the lad for on-song Hoops as he rules roost for league leaders

SHAMROCK ROVERS 3 SLIGO ROVERS 0

MIDFIELD MAESTRO: Shamrock Rovers’ Jack Byrne. Photo: Sportsfile
MIDFIELD MAESTRO: Shamrock Rovers’ Jack Byrne. Photo: Sportsfile

Jack Byrne's Ireland career went no further than a few days spent training with Martin O'Neill's side in the lead-up to Euro 2016.

But the former Manchester City man can only have made a good impression on the onlookers from the Ireland management team at Tallaght Stadium last night.

As a club, the story of the night for the Hoops is that their comfortable 3-0 win over Sligo Rovers keeps up their run of wins and clean sheets.

The fixture list, and their form, are working in tandem for Stephen Bradley's side, as a win against bottom side Finn Harps next week, in the only scheduled Premier Division game, would put them seven points ahead before any of their rivals play again.

But there was also food for thought in Tallaght for the Ireland management team, with senior boss Mick McCarthy, his assistants Terry Connor and Robbie Keane, and U21 team manager Stephen Kenny, all in attendance for this home success, with goals from Dan Carr, Ronan Finn and Byrne.

And they must surely have been impressed by two men, in particular, Hoops midfielder Byrne and his team-mate Trevor Clarke.

Left-back Clarke has already earned an international call-up as he reports for U21 duty next week, while Byrne had been in the senior squad under McCarthy's predecessor but subsequently went off the radar.

Still only 22, Byrne ran the show in midfield last night and his performance was capped off by a stunning goal on 81 minutes. Given McCarthy's limited options in midfield, a call-up for Byrne is something that could not be ruled out in the medium term, if he can sustain this form as Rovers have kept up their winning habit.

Sligo came to Dublin on the back of a two-game winning run but before a ball was kicked, Liam Buckley understood that playing away to the league leaders would be a different world to knocking out wins over newly promoted sides.

That said, few expected how one-sided the game would be, Sligo simply unable to get out of their own half for long spells against an utterly superior Hoops side.

Home supporters did need patience, though, as it took them until well into the first half to get the breakthrough, but the outcome of a win for the Dublin club was never really in doubt.

Six minutes from the break, Bradley's side had the lead, at last, a corner from Byrne falling for Carr who tucked away his first goal of the season.

It could have been 2-0 just after that, only for a fingertip save from Mitchell Beeney to deny former Sligo player Aaron Greene.

With Liam Kerrigan on as a half-time sub for the ineffective Romeo Parkes, Sligo had more bite about them but still lacked the nous needed to really trouble the home side.

Rovers doubled the lead on 64 minutes, Finn the scorer but Byrne the creator as it was his ball which set up a chance for Greene and when the ball rebounded off a defender it fell to Finn to score his first for the season.

Byrne was not finished and he popped up on 82 minutes, spotting keeper Beeney off his line and the former Manchester City player came up with a strike of skill and power to claim his first for the club, unlikely to be the last.

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