Shamrock Rovers had a more than convincing win over Waterford United at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night in their final friendly before the start of the league campaign. It finished 8-1 on the night for Stephen Kenny’s men with Gary O’Neill hitting a hat-trick for the Hoops. It was a confidence sapping result for Paul O’Brien’s men who are expected to be challenging for promotion out of the First Division.
It was an even opening period to the game that didn’t give a hint of the dominance that would follow later. Craig Sives was unlucky not to open the scoring after 12 minutes when his header from around the penalty spot shaved the post from a Billy Dennehy cross.
The opening goal of the game came after 14 minutes for the champions from a deep Killian Brennan corner. The corner was sent back across the box by the head of defender Dylan Mernagh. The ball found its way to Ken Oman who had an acre of space in front of goal to slot the ball home low into the net. Waterford’s first chance of the game came from the kick off but Ben Ryan’s shot didn’t trouble Oscar Jannson in goal as it flew over the bar.
Rovers doubled their lead on 26 minutes with a fine individual effort from Daryl Kavanagh. He picked up the ball in midfield and ghosted by two players and with great vision chipped the ball over Robbie Hughes into the top corner from all of 25 yards.
Brennan was fouled in a dangerous position in front of goal on 33 minutes. Dennehy struck the free with his left into the bottom corner to make it 3-0. The Blues pulled a goal back straight away as Jannson misread the flight of Paul Phelan’s corner allowing United skipper David Breen to head home. Just before half time, Ronan Finn found the net for the fourth with a fine flicked header from a Kerrea Gilbert cross.
United went close early in the second half as Gary Dempsey’s free was headed over by Seamus Long. A Sives chance went close before Rovers added three goals in a devastating five-minute spell before the hour mark. An O’Neill header at the backpost from substitute Aaron Green’s cross made it five for the Hoops.
Rovers then had half a dozen goals when Finn made a probing run down the right with his ball handing O’Neill the simplest of tap ins from inside the six yard box. Substitute Gary McCabe scored next following a mazy run. He beat Paul Carey on the left, cut inside and slammed the ball high into the roof of the net to make it 7-1 on the hour mark. Waterford did have a chance to get their second on 65 minutes when sub Seany Maguire played in Darragh Walshe but Jannson was on hand to save his shot.
Greene had a couple of chances to increase his sides tally. First when he ran in on goal but was forced wide by Hughes and his subsequent shot went over the bar. Next he claimed a long ball over the top but his left foot shot bounced back off the post.
The home side continued to pile on the misery with United going 8-1 down. Six minutes from time Gary O’Neill completed his hat-trick and the overall goal scoring for the evening. Breene bundled into the back of O’Neill in the box. At the infamous car park end of Tallaght Stadium, O’Neill managed to do what very few players have done there and scored from the penalty spot. The last bit of play saw Dempsey chip the ball over the Rovers defence onto sub Seany Maguire’s chest but Jannson was able to smother the ball at the player’s feet.
Stephen Kenny will no doubt be happy with the performance of his side and he used that squad to the fullest extent with eight second half substitutions. Blues boss O’Brien will have to pick up his men after this dispiriting result. He will be emphasising that the quality of opposition will not be as strong for United in the First Division as they faced from the back-to-back League of Irelands champions in Tallaght. Waterford will be thankful for that.
Shamrock Rovers: Oscar Jannson; Kerrea Gilbert (Sean Gannon, 65), Craig Sives (Graham Gartland, 65), Ken Oman (Colin Hawkins, 84), Conor Powell (Conor McCormack, 84); Killian Brennan, Stephen Rice (Stephen O’Donnell 65), Ronan Finn (Chris Turner, 72), Billy Dennehy (Gary McCabe 45); Gary O’Neill, Daryl Kavanagh (Aaron Greene, 45)
Subs not used: Lee Stacey
Waterford United: Robbie Hughes; Paul Carey (Thomas Whitty, 89), Craig Burns (Seany Maguire, 65), David Breen, Dylan Mernagh; Ben Ryan (Peter Keegan, 72), Gary Dunphy (Peter Higgins), Seamus Long, Paul Phelan; Gary Dempsey, Darragh Walshe (Nathan West)
Subs not used: Packie Holden
Bookings: Ben Ryan
Referee: Tom Connolly
Attendance: 1000 (estimate)
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gary O’Neill who, in addition to scoring a hat-trick, was very effective in holding the ball up and involving other Rovers players