Jack Byrne strikes the winner as Shamrock Rovers take Tallaght thriller over Dundalk

It might be way too early to try to predict the ultimate destination of the 2020 title, but Shamrock Rovers certainly made a convincing statement of their intent in that direction with this best-of-five win in what was a thrilling game against reigning champions Dundalk.

Jack Byrne strikes the winner as Shamrock Rovers take Tallaght thriller over Dundalk

Shamrock Rovers 3 Dundalk 2

It might be way too early to try to predict the ultimate destination of the 2020 title, but Shamrock Rovers certainly made a convincing statement of their intent in that direction with this best-of-five win in what was a thrilling game against reigning champions Dundalk.

Jordan Flores might have scored the goal of the night —perhaps of the season — with a remarkable volley in the first half, but Jack Byrne had the last and most decisive word with his own superb strike to seal the deal for Rovers late in the second.

In front of a 7,522-strong crowd — a record attendance for a league game in Tallaght — which included Ireland manager Mick McCarthy and his assistant Terry Connor, the atmosphere was suitably electric at kick-off time, and both the Hoops and the Lilywhites — the latter decked out in all-black on the night — were soon providing entertainment levels to match the occasion.

The first big chance of the game came in the 16th minute when Dylan Watts put Aaron Greene in the clear for a run on the Dundalk goal but, to the dismay of the home support, faced with a one-on-one against ’keeper Gary Rogers, the Hoops striker sent his shot just wide of the far post.

The reprieve was short-lived for the champions however, Watts taking advantage of the ball falling invitingly off Sean Hoare’s block to score with his second bite of the cherry in the 20th minute.

But within two minutes Dundalk were level, and in truly spectacular style, as Jordan Flores connected magnificently with Michael Duffy’s corner to rocket an acrobatic volley to the back of the Rovers net.

With the visitors now enjoying a sustained period of dominance, Alan Mannus did well to finger-tip a dangerous Duffy free kick over the top in the 32nd minute, before a rip-roaring half ended with Jack Byrne unable to come anywhere near as close for Rovers, as he ballooned a free over Rogers’ bar from just outside the area.

From the urgency with which they took the game to their opponents at the resumption, the home side were clearly determined to get back on the front foot. But Dundalk went ahead in the 63rd minute, with what was their first meaningful attack of the second half, substitute Daniel Kelly playing in Patrick Hoban, who showed a supreme striker’s instincts to dink the ball over the advancing Mannus.

In what was an utterly absorbing contest, it was now the turn of the Hoops to fight back, Roberto Lopes heading in a Byrne corner at the near post to tie the game up once again.

Byrne himself was inches away from finding the top corner with a right-footed screamer in the 80th minute, but just three minutes later, he used his left to devastating effect, cleverly creating the space for himself before driving a fierce shot beyond Rogers to send the Hoops back in front — a lead they held right through to the end of what was a memorable night in Tallaght.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Mannus, O’Brien (Scales 12), Lopes, Grace, Bolger, Finn, Bolger, McEneff, Farrugia, Byrne, Watts (Gaffney 63), Greene.

DUNDALK: Rogers, Gannon, Boyle, Hoare, Massey. Shields, Flores (Daniel Kelly 57), Sloggett (Kelly 85), Smith (Patching 76), Duffy, Hoban.

Referee: Rob Hennessy (Limerick)

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox