Thursday 18 January 2018

Three and easy for Dundalk

Brian Gartland of Dundalk scores his side’s first goal during their Premier Division victory over Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium. Pic: David Maher/Sportsfile
Brian Gartland of Dundalk scores his side’s first goal during their Premier Division victory over Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium. Pic: David Maher/Sportsfile

The heavy rain finally ceased but there is just no stopping Dundalk as the league champions, and champions elect, swatted aside yet another challenge on the way to retaining their title, this time Shamrock Rovers the ones to suffer.

The Dublin club were light years ahead of Dundalk at the start of this decade but a tired and ragged-looking Hoops outfit, albeit with three 18-year-olds in their starting XI, simply could not live with the utterly dominant visitors at a rain-sodden Tallaght Stadium last night.

Well, they did live with them for 45 minutes. Dundalk somehow went into half-time with the game scoreless, but goals from defenders Brian Gartland and Dane Massey early in the second half gave them control of the tie. A soft goal from ex-Hoop Ciaran Kilduff on 71 minutes was just another blow for Rovers, who are still looking for that one win they require to secure a top-four finish.


Still four points ahead of Cork City and with their next game on Monday against a Longford Town side who were all but relegated on the back of their defeat last night, Dundalk really do have one hand on the trophy.

The game was preceded by a steady downpour which left the Tallaght pitch heavy in places and the FAI can only be thankful that the rain was so brief, as a longer spell would have put the game in danger of being called off, another fixture posing a major, major headache for those in charge of the league.

Playing what would be their second of three league game in six days, Kenny's side seemed ready for the challenge and that unchanged XI looked strong from the off, with David McMillan forcing a save from keeper Barry Murphy as early as the third minute after he was set up by Ronan Finn.

Murphy was certainly the busier of the two keepers, Dundalk man Gabriel Sava enjoying a quiet night, as the home side had to absorb pressure and chances.

But Dundalk lacked the clinical edge which they needed to get them in front. Their cause not helped when captain ­Stephen O'Donnell pulled up with a hamstring injury after only 14 minutes and had to be replaced by Chris Shields.

Their longest-serving player, Shields came into the fray with fire in his belly and helped ­Dundalk dominate but they were unable to beat Murphy.


The champions should have been 1-0 up on 19 minutes, Patrick McEleney blazing over the bar when he should have hit the target at least.

Two minutes after the break, a good cross from John ­Mountney carved out an ­opportunity for McMillan but his shot was weak and didn't trouble Murphy.

On 53 minutes Dundalk got in front, centre half Gartland the man to do the job. His header from Mountney's corner was saved by keeper Murphy but Gartland reacted well and poked home the rebound.

Nine minutes later the deficit was doubled, Massey ending his own goal famine with a finish from a move which Rovers failed to defend, Mountney, Gartland and Kilduff all getting touches in the box to set up Massey.

With 19 minutes left to play, sub Kilduff added a third goal, a self-inflicted wound for the home side as Dave O'Connor was punished for trying to play the ball out of defence, Mountney won the ball off him and fed Finn who crossed for Kilduff, left with just the tap-in to complete.

Four points ahead with four games to go, it's hard to see Dundalk being stopped now.


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