Dundalk 2-1 Shamrock Rovers
Quick-fire goals from Neale Fenn and JJ Melligan gave Dundalk their first league home win over ten-man Shamrock Rovers in almost 14 years as they sent the Hoops to their first defeat in nine games with a 2-1 victory at Oriel Park on Bank Holiday Monday night. Fenn and Melligan struck within three second-half minutes to give the home side a deserved 2-0 lead after they dominated the opening period. Gary Twigg pulled one back but then James Chambers was dismissed and manager Michael O’Neill quickly followed him. Rovers fans then started a riot as they charged at Dundalk fans but they were eventually pushed back, and the hosts closed out the game to end a 14-year hoodoo.
Ian Foster made one change to the team that beat Drogheda United three days earlier as Melligan returned from a two-game absence following injury, the former Leyton Orient midfielder replacing Johnny Breen in the starting lineup. Dundalk started on the front foot and pressed Rovers back. Their first chance came on six minutes when good interplay set Shaun Kelly free down the right but after cutting to the by-line inside the box the young defender’s cross was blocked behind by Danny Murphy. However, within sixty seconds it should have been 1-0 to Rovers. Chambers crossed from the right into the path of Thomas Stewart in the box, but the striker, who netted twice in the win at Saint Patrick’s Athletic on Friday, shot wide of Peter Cherrie’s right-hand post when he seemed destined to score. At the other end Stephen Maher’s 25-yard shot was smothered by Alan Mannus at his near post.
Dundalk were dominating possession and pressuring Rovers, and they went close to breaking the deadlock three times before the midway point of the first half. Firstly, a Ross Gaynor free-kick dropped to captain Liam Burns on the edge of the box who drilled a first-time shot over the bar. The best of the three chances arrived on 17 minutes. Gaynor was again the provider, this time from a corner, as he delivered to the back post where Wayne Hatswell headed back towards goal but Fenn could only find the arms of Mannus from close-range. Five minutes later and another chance fell to Fenn, this time the ex-Bohemians forward picking up possession on the edge of the box following a cross from the right, and after cutting inside his shot whistled past the top corner. Just before the half-hour mark, Dundalk pressed again. Hatswell broke forward and passed to Gaynor on the left whose low cross was put behind by Pat Flynn as Faz prepared to pounce. The resulting corner dropped to Garry Breen on the far side and he crossed to the back post where Melligan’s goal-bound effort appeared to be handled by Chris Turner. However, the referee gave a goal kick.
Rovers were struggling to get out of their own half but they had two successive corners on 31 minutes which relieved some of the pressure. However, it was unrelenting from Dundalk who quickly broke forward, Melligan this time trying his luck but his long-range effort flashed past Mannus’ right-hand post. With the visitors unable to get a foothold in midfield, O’Neill decided for a switch on 39 minutes as Stephen Rice replaced Robert Bayly, who had spent a short spell with Dundalk during pre-season. Dundalk continued in attack and search of the first goal, and Breen forced Mannus into another fine save as his header bound for the top corner was tipped over. The breakthrough eventually came on 52 minutes. Gaynor delivered to the back post, Hatswell headed back across once more and Fenn was on hand to divert the ball past Mannus. Rovers almost replied immediately when Rice fired a 30-yard shot, which Cherrie felt was going wide, off the post, Dundalk eventually clearing to safety. And just two minutes later it was 2-0.
Maher’s initial effort was blocked but the ball fell to Melligan who neatly fired to the bottom corner from ten-yards. It was almost 3-0 moments later but Miller’s header crashed back off the crossbar. Gaynor then turned well inside the area but his low drill was gathered by Mannus. Out of nowhere, however, Rovers got back in the game on 66 minutes. Rice’s throw eventually fell to Twigg at the back post who shot past Cherrie from eight-yards. Chambers then saw red for a second bookable offence before O’Neill followed him down the tunnel after leaving his technical box, referee Damien Hancock deeming his offence serious enough to see him red-carded. Rovers supporters then rioted, breaking down the barrier fence and charging at Dundalk fans before being restrained by Gardai. It was ugly scenes at Oriel Park but the game eventually resumed with Dundalk easily closing the game out. It was another fantastic win for the Lilywhites who now travel to Richmond Park on Friday looking for their first league goal against Saint Patrick’s Athletic since September 1998.
DUNDALK FC (4-3-3): Peter Cherrie; Shaun Kelly, Liam Burns, Garry Breen, Wayne Hatswell; JJ Melligan (Ciarán McGuigan 93), Tom Miller, Stephen Maher; Fahrudin Kuduzovic, Neale Fenn (Johnny Breen 87), Ross Gaynor.
Goals: N Fenn (52), JJ Melligan (55).
Booked: S Maher (61), J Breen (91).
Unused Subs: Matt Gregg (GK), Nathan Murphy, Tiarnán Mulvenna.
SHAMROCK ROVERS (4-4-2): Alan Mannus; Danny Murphy, Aidan Price, Dan Murray, Pat Flynn; James Chambers, Chris Turner (Dessie Baker 67), Robert Bayly (Stephen Rice 39), Ollie Cahill (Billy Dennehy 61); Gary Twigg, Thomas Stewart.
Goal: G Twigg (66).
Booked: D Murphy (34), P Flynn (44), J Chambers (57, 81).
Sent-Off: J Chambers (81).
Unused Subs: Robert Duggan (GK), Paddy Kavanagh.
Referee: Damien Hancock (Dublin).
Attendance: 3,200 (est.)