Dundalk ended Shamrock Rovers 33-game unbeaten run with a 2-1 win in Oriel Park this evening.
Dundalk began the game sitting 7th in the Premier Division table while the visitor’s sat on top of the tree, five points clear of Sligo Rovers in second.
Much of the talk in the build-up to this game was the Dundalk fans protest outside the ground, which took place from 6pm as both sets of players were entering the stadium. The home fans have become increasingly frustrated with how their club is being run in recent times, and held a banner which read “We want our club back!”. Thankfully the protest was peaceful and the fans cleared the area without any disruptions ahead of kick-off.
Jim Magilton made six changes in starting-eleven, with Cameron Dummigan, Chris Shields, Sam Stanton, Daniel Kelly, Patrick McEleney and David McMillan all coming into the side for the hosts. Meanwhile, Stephen Bradley was forced into three changes ahead of tonight’s game. Joey O’Brien, Sean Gannon and Aaron Greene all came into the side in place of Sean Hoare, Ronan Finn and Dylan Watts.
Rovers have struggled recently with injuries, and their entire bench was filled with players who lined out with the Shamrock Rovers II side in the First Division – including 16-year old Kevin Zefi who is expected to join Serie A giants Inter Milan in the summer.
Rovers started the game on top, with Graham Burke forcing Alessio Abibi into an early save inside the opening 40 seconds. Rovers continued their strong start, and in the fourth minute a Sean Gannon cross was flicked on by Aaron Greene to Liam Scales, who’s looping header came back off the Dundalk crossbar.
Dundalk found the breakthrough in the 11th minute, when they broke from a Rovers corner. McEleney found the ball in plenty of space and ran towards Alan Mannus’ goal before coolly slotting home to give the hosts the lead, against the run of play.
Dundalk had no sooner finished celebrating and Shamrock Rovers had equalised. Rory Gaffney was fouled on the edge of the Dundalk box in the 13th minute and Mandroiu’s set-piece was dreadfully defended by Alessio Abibi and the Dundalk defence, and Joey O’Brien had a simple tap-in at the back post to level the scoreline.
The game settled down after O’Brien’s equaliser and despite Rovers seeing more of the ball for the remainder of the half, Dundalk defended well and also saw plenty of the ball themselves. The sides eventually entered the break at 1-1.
Similarly to the first-half, Rovers started the second-half on top. In the 48th minute Aaron Greene raced behind the Dundalk defence, and his cheeky lob was destined for the back of the Dundalk net, until his effort bounced back up off the crossbar and Dundalk blew a sigh of relief.
Only four minutes later, Rovers hit the upright for the third time. Graham Burke cut in from the right-wing, and in a classic Graham Burke way, he fired his effort back off Abibi’s back-post and Dundalk managed to clear the second ball.
Rovers thought that their second goal was moments away, until Daniel Kelly put the hosts back in front in the 59th minute. Patrick McEleney played the former Bohemians winger down the right-wing, and Kelly sprinted towards the Rovers box before firing past Alan Mannus to give the lilywhites the lead once again.
As the game grew on, Dundalk began to grow in confidence. Rovers struggled to break the hosts down, and looked to slowly tire as the game drew closer to an end.
With one minute remaining on the clock, Aaron Greene had a glorious chance to rescue a point for Stephen Bradley’s side. A deep cross found the experienced striker at the back-post, and with the goal at his mercy from 4-yards out, he somehow headed back across the goal and wide of the Dundalk goal.
With four minutes added on at the end of the second-half, Dundalk smartly saw out the remainder of the game and became the first-side to defeat Shamrock Rovers since September 2019. Given the negative atmosphere surrounding the Louth club this week, this victory certainly boosted the morale around Oriel Park and gave the Dundalk supporters some encouraging signs ahead of their clash with Bohemians in Dalymount Park on Monday afternoon (kick-off at 5:45).
Meanwhile, Shamrock Rovers welcome Sligo Rovers to Tallaght Stadium on Monday evening in a mouth-water top-of-the-table clash against Liam Buckley’s side. Kick-off in Tallaght on Monday evening is at 7:45pm. Both the Dundalk vs Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers vs Sligo Rovers will be live on WatchLoi.
Dundalk: 1. Alessio Abibi; 23. Cameron Dummigan, 4. Andy Boyle, 5. Chris Shields (C), 13. Raivis Jurkovskis; 19. Wilfried Zahibo, 8. Sam Stanton (74′ 17. Ole Erik Midtskogen); 27. Daniel Kelly ( 77′ 10. Greg Sloggett), 11. Patrick McEleney, 7. Michael Duffy; 29. David McMillan.
Shamrock Rovers: 1. Alan Mannus; 28. Joey O’Brien, 4. Roberto Lopes (C), 5. Lee Grace; 2. Sean Gannon, 14. Danny Mandroiu, 16. Gary O’Neill, 15. Liam Scales; 10. Graham Burke (86′ 19. Dean Williams), 9. Aaron Greene, 20. Rory Gaffney.