Seán Gannon pounces as Lilies go eight clear

Seán Gannon’s 73rd-minute goal was the difference at Tallaght last night, as Dundalk edged a nail-biting affair against Shamrock Rovers.

Seán Gannon pounces as Lilies go eight clear

[team1]Shamrock Rovers[/team1][score1]0[/score1][team2]Dundalk[/team2][score2]1[/score2][/score]

Seán Gannon’s 73rd-minute goal was the difference at Tallaght last night, as Dundalk edged a nail-biting affair against Shamrock Rovers.

In addition to securing their seventh straight top-flight victory, the Louth men also moved eight points clear of Rovers at the summit of the Premier Division.

This game arrived at the end of a week that began with Dundalk announcing the return of Andy Boyle for a second spell at the club. The Ireland international was ineligible for the clash, but is expected to play a major role for the Lilywhites as they aim to challenge on all fronts. Like Boyle, recent Rovers recruits Neil Farrugia and Garry O’Neill will be forced to wait before making their debuts for the south Dublin outfit.

For his side’s latest visit to the capital, Chris Shields was asked to keep tabs on Rovers attacker Jack Byrne. The former Manchester City youth operated in an advanced position behind lone striker Dan Carr and he dragged a left-footed shot just past the post on five minutes.

Despite breathing this sigh of relief, Dundalk were relatively comfortable in defence during the early exchanges. Though Carr provided a physical presence in the Rovers’ attack, he was often left isolated against the imposing figures of Sean Hoare and Brian Gartland. It was a similar case for Patrick Hoban at the opposite end, as the visitors struggled to create opportunities for the league’s top scorer.

In a fiery opening-quarter, Rovers full-back Trevor Clarke was cautioned for a robust tackle on John Mountney. The Dundalk winger subsequently found himself in the referee’s notebook for a late challenge on Kavanagh.

As the interval approached, Rovers started to grow in confidence. Ronan Finn got on the end of a precise Carr delivery, only for the retreating Dane Massey to dramatically clear off the line.

Byrne was largely on the periphery of the game, but he came to life on 38 minutes, when his long-distance drive smashed the underside of the crossbar. This was a major let-off for the champions, who were hoping to extend their unbeaten league run to 13 games.

Hoban had a shot blocked eight minutes after the resumption, while Patrick McEleney later hit the side-netting at a left-hand angle. Rovers maintained a counter-attacking threat and this almost cost Dundalk dearly on the hour mark.

When Clarke broke into the opposition half, Lilywhites netminder Gary Rogers came storming out of his goal to haul down the raiding defender. Despite the vocal protests from the stands, the Meath native escaped with a yellow card.

The resulting set-piece was cleared by the Dundalk defence and moving into the closing-quarter, the tie remained delicately poised. That was until Gannon finally produced a breakthrough finish. Picked out inside the penalty area by sub Jamie McGrath, the marauding full-back squeezed the ball underneath Rovers custodian Alan Mannus to send the Dundalk faithful into raptures.

Aaron Greene came off the bench and fired a shot agonisingly off-target five minutes from the end, as Dundalk took a big step to another title.

SHAMROCK ROVERS:

Mannus; O’Brien, Lopes, Grace, Clarke; Bolger, Finn; Watts (B Kavanagh 77), Byrne, S Kavanagh; Carr (Greene 72).

DUNDALK:

Rogers; Gannon, Gartland, Hoare , Massey; Shields, McEleney; Mountney (Benson 79), Murray (McGrath 64), Duffy; Hoban (Kelly 86).

Referee: R Harvey (Dublin).

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