A combination of missed chances and poor defending cost Dundalk dearly at Tallaght Stadium as Roberto Lopes’s second-half header secured league leaders Shamrock Rovers an important three points in this year’s SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division title race.
Stephen O’Donnell’s men made the trip to South County Dublin knowing that a win, which would represent Dundalk’s first at the venue since the summer of 2019, would move them within five points of the Hoops with eight games to play but the Lilywhites made the trip home wondering what might have been.
Lopes rose unmarked to head home a Dylan Watts corner in the 62nd minute and although Dundalk pushed for a leveller, with substitute Sam Durrant forcing Alan Magnus into a late save, Rovers saw it out to maintain their four-point lead over St Patrick’s Athletic at the summit.
Dundalk’s best period came in a 25-minute spell before the break that saw them create a number of clear-cut openings with Daryl Horgan, Daniel Kelly and John Martin causing lots of problems to the Rovers backline.
After seeing Nathan Shepperd on alert in the opening 20 minutes, Dundalk took control and Martin tested Mannus with a long-range diving header from a teasing Archie Davies delivery.
Lee Grace then had to make a brilliant intervention to block Kelly’s goalward strike after a brilliant run by the busy Johannes Yli-Kokko and both Kelly and Horgan saw dangerous attempts flash across the face of the Rovers goal.
The chance of the half came in the 36th minute when Davies’s attempted shot was deflected into Martin’s path but the striker’s downward header hit the butt of the post with Mannus beaten.
Rovers improved after the break and Rory Gaffney had a goal ruled out for offside as they wrestled control of the game and Dundalk were left with it all to do when Lopes made the most of poor marking to head home his fifth goal against the Lilywhites.
Shepperd kept Dundalk in it when he made a brilliant stop to turn a Gaffney pile drive around the post and Durrant almost secured a point when he jinked his way across the Rovcers 18-yard line to left fly but Mannus held on.
A frustrating night came to an end shortly after, with the weekend coming to a close with Dundalk in sixth place.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Alan Mannus; Daniel Cleary, Ronan Finn (Trevor Clarke 71), Lee Grace, Sean Kavanagh, Pico; Gary O’Neill, Dylan Watts (Richie Towell 76); Graham Burke (Johnny Kenny 71), Liam Burt (Markus Poom 53), Rory Gaffney. Subs not used: Leon Pohls (GK), Sean Gannon, Sean Hoare, Simon Power, Darragh Nugent.
DUNDALK FC: Nathan Shepperd; Louie Annesley, Darren Brownlie, Archie Davies, Hayden Muller (Robbie McCourt 80); Daryl Horgan, Daniel Kelly, Connor Malley (Cameron Elliott 80), Greg Sloggett (Alfie Lewis 63), Johannes Yli-Kokko (Sam Durrant 75); John Martin (Patrick Hoban 63). Subs not used: Darragh Leahy, Andrew Boyle, Paul Doyle, Peter Cherrie (GK)
REFEREE: Neil Doyle. ATTENDANCE: 6,021.
|Club||1st Half||2nd Half||Goals|
|August 25, 2023||7:45 pm||Premier Division||2023 League of Ireland|