Dundalk extended their run of away games without defeat to 22 thanks to a 2-0 victory against a lacklustre Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night.
A first-half own goal from David Webster, along with a second-half strike from Ronan Finn, saw Stephen Kenny’s side run out impressive victors.
In a game that was played in front of the RTÉ cameras, both sides struggled to settle early early on and chances in the opening 15 minutes were at a premium.
With a quarter of an hour played, Michael Drennan thought he was through on goal after racing onto a Gary McCabe long ball, but the forward failed to time his run and was flagged offside.
Moments later, Dundalk took the lead after Rovers failed to clear the corner. A quick throw in found Sean Gannon, who played a one-two with Finn, before he played in Darren Meenan whose low cross was turned into his own net by David Webster from close range.
Just after the midway point of the half, Dundalk had a chance to double their lead. A brilliant run from Daryl Horgan, who cut in from the left flank, saw him slip a lovely low ball into David McMillan who could only fire wide past the onrushing Barry Murphy.
Two minutes later, Dundalk had another great chance when Andy Boyle found himself free from a corner, but the defender failed to find the target with his headed effort from 18 yards.
Soon after Boyle’s chance, Rovers were reduced to ten men when referee Neil Doyle gave Gary McCabe his marching orders for a lunge on Dundalk skipper Stephen O’Donnell.
As Rovers continued to struggle to create opportunities on goal, Brandon Miele had a dangerous free-kick from the edge of the box easily cleared after the winger failed to beat the first man. Moments later, a Killian Brennan corner sailed harmlessly wide at the back post without troubling the visitors' defence.
When the second-half resumed, Stephen Kenny’s side had a dream start. There was some excellent build-play from the Dundalk midfield before the ball was played to Horgan whose cross was knocked down by Meanan to Finn whose first time curling shot sailed into the far corner.
Soon after Finn had doubled Dundalk’s advantage, Gannon had a brilliant opportunity to seal all three points when he waltzed through a gaping hole in the Rovers defence, but Murphy stood up tall to make a strong close range save.
As Dundalk continued to press forward, McMillan will be wondering how he failed to get his name on the scoresheet. An excellent run from Meenan down the right wing before his low cross found McMillan, but the forward failed to connect with the ball from close range.
Five minutes after McMillan’s chance, Dundalk had another great effort when Finn turned Murphy twice inside the Rovers box before he found Horgan whose first time shot was cleared off the line by Gavin Brennan.
With Shamrock Rovers chances at a premium during the second-half, Simon Madden flashed a lovely low cross across the six yard box, but despite the excellent delivery no Rovers player had gambled on Madden’s delivery.
As Dundalk continued to be in cruise control, second-half substitute Patrick McEleney was next to try his luck, but he could only fire wide from the edge of the box.
With little over five minutes remaining, Rovers had their only shot of the half when Trevor Clarke, who had just come on as a substitute, fired wide from the edge of the box and in additional time John Mountney did likewise for Dundalk.
Deep in additional time, Dane Massey had a dangerous free-kick that cannoned off the Rovers wall before referee Neil Doyle blew the final whistle to signal the end of a dominant performance from the Champions. Dundalk play away to Bohemians next Friday, while Rovers have a short turnaround as they travel to Turner’s Cross on Monday to play Cork City in a rearranged fixture.
Shamrock Rovers FC: Barry Murphy; Simon Madden, Maxime Blanchard, David Webster, Gavin Brennan; Dean Clarke (Danny North 52), Gary McCabe, Killian Brennan, Patrick Cregg, Brandon Miele; Michael Drennan (Trevor Clarke 81).
Subs Not Used: Craig Hyland, Robert Cornwell, Luke Byrne, Stephen McPhail, Gareth McCaffrey.
Booked: David Webster (84), Killian Brennan (90+3).
Red Card: Gary McCabe (31).
Dundalk FC: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey; Darren Meenan (John Mountney 77), Chris Shields, Ronan Finn, Stephen O’Donnell (Robbie Benson 46), Daryl Horgan; David McMillan (Patrick McEleney 72).
Subs Not Used: Gabriel Sava, George Poynton, Eric Whelan, Anton Reilly.
Booked: Daryl Horgan (35).
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Attendance: 3,000 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Daryl Horgan ( Dundalk).