Tensions were high coming into this game in Tallaght between Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk with both sides having perfect starts to the season winning all three of their opening league fixtures.This was the “top of the table” clash between the two best football teams in Ireland.
Rovers were dealt an early blow when their star defender Joey O Brien went off injured.He was replaced by new signing Liam Scales. Rovers recovered quickly and started on top with Aaron Greene having the best of the early chances,flashing his effort just wide of the post.Shamrock Rovers early pressure paid off when Dylan Watts fired them in front on the 20th minute after some good build up play between Jack Bryne and Ronan Finn down the right hand side led to Dylan Watts getting a strike on goal, his strike was blocked by Dundalk defender Andy Boyle before picking up the rebound firing Rovers into the lead in front of the Shamrock Rovers singing section.However,just minutes later Dundalk equalised due to a fabulous strike from Jordan Flores.Michael Duffy delivered a wonderful cross from a Dundalk corner which was excellently met by Flores who drilled it into the top corner first time on the volley to put Dundalk on level terms.Dundalk began to grow into the game creating some half chances with Cammy Smith coming closest for the Lillywhites.The sides went into the half level with Dundalk being the more dominant side.
Shamrock Rovers began the second half just like the first on top with Aaron Greene and Aaron McEneff coming closest from free kicks.However on the 60th minute, Dundalk fired in front against the run of play with Daniel Kelly pouncing on to a misplaced passed by Shamrock Rovers star Jack Byrne, Kelly slipped Pat Hoban through who made no mistake in punishing the Rovers mistake by chipping the ball over Shamrock Rovers keeper Alan Mannus into the back of the net.Hoban’s celebration didn’t go down too well with the Shamrock Rovers faithful who had been giving him a bit of stick before hand. Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley responded immediately by bringing on new star Rory Gaffney. Gaffney made an immediate impact,picking up the ball on the right hand side before delivering a wonderful cross to the back post to Aaron Greene whose header was cleared off the line by Andy Boyle.The new star was causing all sorts of problems for the Dundalk defence who began to look a little bit more vulnerable.Rovers went on pursuit of an equalizer and their pressure paid off when Roberto Lopes headed home from a wonderful Jack Bryne corner with twenty minutes to go. This game was now up for grabs and could have gone either way.The atmosphere was electric in the stadium coming from both sets of supporters.It really was a clash between the top two in Ireland. Both sides were creating chances with the aim of winning the game,Jack Bryne coming the closest with his effort shooting just wide of Gary Rogers’s left hand post.Byrne was to get his goal however,he picked the ball up 25 yards from goal before dancing around Chris Shields and firing the ball past Gary Rogers with a superb strike.Rovers were in the lead! Tallaght stadium erupted in celebrations from the home side’s fans.Dundalk threw bodies forward in pursuit of a late upset and they nearly equalized when Chris Shields delivered a fantastic ball to the back stick to fellow team mate Dan Kelly,he headed back across goal but a superb last ditch header from Roberto “Pico” Lopes prevented a late equalizer from the champions.That was the closest the Lillywhites came to an equalizer with Rovers maintaining their 100% record with a big win over their title rivals.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Alan Mannus; Roberto Lopes, Joey O’Brien (Liam Scales 13), Lee Grace; Ronan Finn (capt), Greg Bolger, Jack Byrne, Dylan Watts (Rory Gaffney 62), Neil Farrugia; Aaron McEneff, Aaron Greene
DUNDALK: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Sean Hoare, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey; Chris Shields (capt), Greg Sloggett (Georgie Kelly 85); Cammy Smith (Will Patching 76), Jordan Flores (Daniel Kelly 58), Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban