Shamrock Rovers have reached the next round of this year’s Leinster Senior Cup, following a convincing display over Dundalk in Oriel Park on Tuesday. Goals from Gary O’Neill and Colm Corcoran secured victory for the Hoops, in what were wet and challenging conditions to play football.
At times both sides were showing glimpses of the hunger and determination needed for the impending season opener, and Mark Quigley began the day’s proceedings for Dundalk with a decent early effort. His low drive was curling into the bottom corner, before Robert Hughes palmed the effort out for a corner after only three minutes.
Despite the home side starting the better, Shamrock Rovers were well in control across their back four. Some quick passing allowed Paddy Kavanagh to break and, showing some great perseverance, bulled through the defence, and although his effort got past Peter Cherrie in the Dundalk goal, it dribbled left and wide.
This was the start of things to come for Rovers, who continued to tighten their grip on the game. Kavanagh was proving difficult to handle for the home side, and his mazy runs were difficult to apprehend. Although Dundalk had started the better they soon found themselves chasing the ball and, after 35 minutes, chasing the game.
Last year’s League Champions deservedly broke the deadlock when Gary O’Neill somehow burst through the home defence. Finding a gap, the striker showed great composure to look up and neatly tuck a low effort into the bottom corner of Cherries net. Both sides played out the final 10 minutes of the first half in wet and dreary conditions, with the half time score 0-1.
Dundalk began the second half very sprightly, with Quigley showing a nice touch to gather the ball before whipping a dangerous ball across the goal mouth, although Hughes punched it clear. The temperature was certainly heating up on the field, despite the cold and wet conditions. Sean Byrne received a yellow card for an apparent high tackle on Dundalk’s Eoghan Osborne, showing that both sides were treating this as a true cup clash.
The home side were gaining in momentum, with Ross Gaynor and Greg Bolger becoming more involved in the tie. Rovers had lost the ability to keep hold of any possession they had at this point, and with an hour gone in the game it looked as if it was a matter of time before the home side equalised.
It was Rovers, however, who had the next decent effort. With 64 minutes on the clock full back Osborne showed lightening speed to out run his man and send across a ball that Cherrie stretched to meet ahead of Ciaran Kilduff. It was then Hughes’ turn to pull off a save when McDonnell’s effort was just tipped over the Dundalk bar. The game had certainly brightened up at this point with some end to end action.
With 20 minutes remaining the game should have been levelled with two clear cut chances for the home side. Osborne latched on to a pass from Quigley and ran towards goal. Although his final effort was tame, the Rovers defence could not deal with it and ball dropped to substitute Daniel Kearns. With an open goal in front of him Kearns could only blast over from no more than six yards. It was then Gaynor’s turn to miss a sitter when, just inside the box, the winger curled a left footed effort just wide of the post.
It was all Dundalk at this point, although it was beginning to feel that it wasn’t to be for the Lilywhites. And with 12 minutes to go, this turned out to be the case. O’Donnell, who was extremely influential throughout, gathered possession inside the box, before his deflected effort deceived Cherrie and nestled in the net, all but ending the home sides hopes of entering the next round.
Both sides will continue with the finishing touches to their pre-season campaigns, ahead of their league opener in ten days time. Ian Foster, despite the defeat, will take positives away from tonight with Quigley impressing at times and new loan signing, Shane Guthrie, slotting into the centre of defence. For Rovers, they will be content with their performance, and now advance in to the next round.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Simon Madden, Eoghan Osborne (Nathan Murphy, 78), Shane Guthrie, Colin Hawkins; Stephen McDonnell (Daniel Kearns, 67), Keith Ward, Ross Gaynor, Greg Bolger; Mark Quigley (Marc Griffen, 78), Johnny Breen. Subs not used: Paul Murphy.
Shamrock Rovers: Robert Hughes; Mick Doyle, Craig Sives (Sean Gannon, H-T) , Pat Flynn, Jack Memery; Sean Byrne, Stephen O’Donnell, Colm Corcoran, Paddy Kavanagh; Ciaran Kilduff, Gary O’Neill (Paul Connolly, 74). Subs not used: Donal Branagan.
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Stephen O’Donnell (Shamrock Rovers)