Dundalk FC comfortably defeated Shamrock Rovers 3-0 at Tallaght Stadium this evening to edge closer to a third league title in a row. A feat which was last achieved, by Rovers, in the mid 1980’s.
Brian Gartland opened the scoring 53 minutes in. The mountainous central defender finished to the net at the second attempt to score his fourth goal in his last six league starts. It is the third time that Gartland has scored first in a game this season and marked the Lilywhites’ 60th Airtricity League goal of the season.
Their 61st notch of the campaign followed soon after and what a marvellous goal it was. Dane Massey was the one to tap home into an empty net after great footwork by Gartland and Ciaran Kilduff inside the area.
Kilduff made it three at the same end as his memorable strike against Maccabi Tel-Aviv two weeks ago. The Kilcock striker rolled the ball past the helpless Barry Murphy following Ronan Finn’s wonderful cushion pass from the right-flank.
The Lilywhites could have, and should have, scored more on a night where they completely dominated. In Ronan Finn they have one of the Airtricity League’s most complete packages and his performance exemplified Dundalk on the night, pass and move.
The win moves the champions closer to the title with four league games remaining, Dundalk continue to lead the chasing pack by four points.
For Rovers, they have lost 10 games in the league this season, four of which have come at Tallaght Stadium. They are conceding an alarming amount of goals and currently sit four-points off Derry City in third. Perhaps even more worryingly, it is still possible for Sligo Rovers to catch them in the European places.
Having went down by the odd goal in Dalymount Park last Friday night, Sami Ristila opted to make two changes to his starting XI with Irish u19 international, Trevor Clarke returning in the place of Shane Hanney while Sean Boyd replaced the suspended Patrick Cregg.
Dundalk, on the opposite hand, kept the same starting line-up as the one that defeated Cork City at Oriel Park on Tuesday night when they visited their second-home for the 14th time in league affairs. Ciaran Kilduff and Robbie Benson were notable returnees to Stephen Kenny’s squad having recovered from injury, the pair took their place on the bench.
The 340th meeting of Rovers and Dundalk kicked-off under a thick cloud of smoke with the home fans having exhibited an early Halloween fireworks display, add to this the pre-match downpour and conditions were far from perfect.
On the last occasion that the sides met in Tallaght, Ronan Finn’s second-half goal sealed a 2-0 win for the Lilywhites. The former Rovers playmaker was heavily involved as early as the second minute when he split the opposing back-four to set David McMillan on his way. Dundalk’s leading marksman raced onto it however his stretching effort was deflected wide by Barry Murphy.
Chances continued to present themselves for the Lilywhites despite ‘skipper Stephen O’Donnell being substituted inside 15 minutes having picked up an injury. Efforts from McMillan, Finn and two Patrick McEleney shots, the second of which saw the Derryman blaze over from six-yards, epitomised the Lilywhites’ dominance over proceedings with the home side struggling to put any sort of attacking plays together.
Despite all the pressing from Stephen Kenny’s men, Rovers remained defensively resolute. Dundalk generally play with great width, however, in the first-half tonight neither John Mountney nor star-man Daryl Horgan got much action. The Rovers full-backs were performing extremely efficiently, with Clarke in particular performing wonderfully at left-full despite this being his fourth match in the last seven days.
The visitors picked up where they left off after the interval as Finn began to monopolise the play from midfield. It was the Dundalk number 10 who forced the corner which saw the Lilywhites take an early second-half lead.
John Mountney’s corner was met emphatically by the head of Gartland, and on the second-attempt, the defender knocked home. It is the fourth goal that Rovers ‘keeper Barry Murphy has conceded from a set-piece in 2016, the last of which also came from the Dundalk centre-half.
It was all one-way traffic and the Lilywhites made it 2-0 with a half-hour to play as Dane Massey scored the easiest goal that he is likely to ever score with Gartland, as ever, heavily involved. The opening goal scorer played a beautiful lofted pass over the top of the Rovers back-four and onto the toe of Ciaran Kilduff, who in-turn squared it for Massey to stab home.
Dundalk were cruising and made it 3-0 through Kilduff in 71st minute. The prolific frontman passed into the net from Finn’s perfect pass, although it was Mountney’s endeavour that forced Rovers into offering up possession cheaply in the build-up to the goal.
Rovers had very little offensive impact throughout although Gary Shaw went on a mazy run after Dundalk’s third goal. The striker rounded Chris Shields, Alan Keane and the out-rushing Gabriel Sava, however, typical of Rovers’ night, Gartland cleared off the line as it ended 3-0.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy (gk); Simon Madden, David O’Connor, Sean Heaney, Trevor Clarke; Dave Webster, Gary McCabe; Sean Boyd, Brandon Miele (James Doona 65), Dean Clarke (Luke Kiely 63); Gary Shaw.
Subs not used: Conor Gleeson (gk), Robert Cornwall, Shane Hanney, Aaron Dobbs, Darragh Gibbons.
Booked: Sean Heaney (60), David O’Connor (78), Trevor Clarke (81), Gary McCabe (81).
Dundalk FC: Gabriel Sava; Alan Keane, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey; Ronan Finn, Stephen O’Donnell (Chris Shields 13); John Mountney (Dean Shiels 77), Patrick McEleney, Daryl Horgan; David McMillan (Ciaran Kilduff 55).
Subs not used: Gary Rogers (gk), Paddy Barrett, Darren Meenan, Robbie Benson.
Booked: Dane Massey (86).
Referee: Paul McLaughlin
Attendance: 2,000 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Ronan Finn (Dundalk FC)