A week after losing to St Patrick’s Athletic, Dundalk’s troubles against 10-men continued at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night as Aaron Greene’s brace propelled Shamrock Rovers back to the top of the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division table.
Trailing to the veteran striker’s first-half opener, Dundalk were handed a route back into the game when Ronan Finn was sent off in the 49th minute but, for the third time this season, they failed to take advantage of the numerical advantage and Greene’s second leaves the Lilywhites without a win in Tallaght since 2019.
Stephen O’Donnell made five changes to the side that was beaten at Richmond Park with Andy Boyle – for the first time since April – Darragh Leahy, Greg Sloggett, Daniel Kelly and Rayhaan Tulloch all named in the starting XI and Dundalk opened in confident fashion with Archie Davies seeing a downward header deflected wide for a corner that came to nothing.
The Lilywhites continued to carry a threat going forward in the early stages and Darragh Leahy had a big penalty appeal waved away by referee Paul McLaughlin when he was blocked in the box by Daniel Cleary in the 11th minute.
Jack Byrne had the home side’s first shot of the evening but his effort was easily dealt with by Nathan Shepperd. The Welshman had to make a more dramatic stop in the 18th minute. Rory Gaffney’s clipped ball evaded Hayden Muller and found Greene. It looked like he was about to sidestep the Dundalk ‘keeper and roll the ball home but Shepperd did brilliantly to take the ball off his toe.
A good Dundalk move from left to right shortly after ended with Daniel Kelly finding Greg Sloggett to the right of the Rovers goal but the midfielder couldn’t angle his header on target.
Shepperd had to be quick off his line again to get down and deny Gary O’Neill after a through ball by Byrne set him through but there was nothing he could do to prevent Rovers hitting the front two minutes later.
Gaffney invited Finn to break forward into acres of space on the right and the Hoops skipper’s low ball across the face of the goal was turned home from close range by Greene, via the legs of the unlucky Shepperd.
HT: Shamrock Rovers 1-0 Dundalk FC
After seeing three players sent off against Cork City a week earlier, Rovers found themselves in disciplinary trouble again within five minutes of the restart when Rayhaan Tulloch was hauled down by Finn after seizing on a poor Roberto Lopes pass to break clear on Leon Pohls’ goal.
Darragh Leahy curled the subsequent free kick just wide of the post and Connor Malley then headed over the top after making a good break into the penalty area to meet a Sloggett cross in the 53rd minute.
The Lilywhites never looked comfortable, though, and shortly after Cleary’s goalbound effort was blocked on the line by Hoban and Muller, Rovers landed the uppercut. Malley and Tulloch couldn’t keep possession on the left and two passes later, Dundalk were cut open on the right with Greene rounding Shepperd to make no mistake.
Shepperd denied the Rovers number nine a hat-trick in the 68th minute and although Dundalk finished the game by throwing bodies forward, and had another penalty appeal waved away by McLaughlin in stoppage time when O’Neill clearly pushed Tulloch in the back, it mattered little as O’Donnell’s men slipped to a seventh defeat of a season riddled with inconsistency.
FT: Shamrock Rovers 2-0 Dundalk FC
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Leon Pohls, Daniel Cleary, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Ronan Finn, Jack Byrne (Liam Burt 75), Gary O’Neill, Markus Poom, Sean Kavanagh (Sean Kavanagh 62), Rory Gaffney (Darragh Nugent 75), Aaron Greene (Kieran Cruise 86). Subs not used: Toms Leitis (GK), Graham Burke, Justin Ferizaj, Gideon Tetteh, Conan Noonan.
DUNDALK FC: Nathan Shepperd, Archie Davies, Hayden Muller (Cameron Elliott 71), Andy Boyle, Darragh Leahy, Greg Sloggett (Alfie Lewis 63), Paul Doyle (Keith Ward 63), Rayhaan Tulloch, Connor Malley, Daniel Kelly (Ryan O’Kane 71), Patrick Hoban. Subs not used: Louie Annesley, John Martin, Johannes Yli-Kokko, Wasiri Williams, Peter Cherrie (GK).
REFEREE: Paul McLaughlin.