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Dublin: 9°C Saturday 15 May 2021

Gannon strike earns Dundalk crucial victory in top-of-the-table clash

The Champions rode their luck to see off Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght.

Sean Gannon celebrates his winning goal.
Sean Gannon celebrates his winning goal.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Shamrock Rovers 0

Dundalk 1

Gavin Cooney reports from Tallaght Stadium

DUNDALK EMERGED BLOODIED but unbroken from a punishing game against Shamrock Rovers, with a second-half Sean Gannon goal lifting them eight points clear at the top of the table. 

The result is tough on Rovers, who owned vast tracts of the game, but while they dominated the game between the boxes, Dundalk were better inside them. 

Fortune fell the champions’ way too – Gary Rogers was lucky to escape a red card for a last-man foul on Trevor Clarke, while Jack Byrne crashed a long-range effort against the crossbar in the first half. 

Rovers owned the ball in that first half, with Jack Byrne menacing in a central role behind Carr and Watts constantly finding space by wriggling away from challenges. 

They lacked an attacking outlet, however, with their tactic of trying to use Carr’s pace behind the Dundalk defence too often halted by the offside flag. 

Not that this was entirely Carr’s fault – too often Rovers’ midfielders took a touch too many before releasing him. 

Rovers nonetheless kept the ball intelligently, and it wasn’t until the 33rd minute that Dundalk had their first sight of goal -  Sean Gannon wasting a smart Pat Hoban knockdown by skewing a shot high into the South Stand from just in front of the penalty spot.

He stamped the ground and flung his arms in anger. 

Five minutes later, Gannon was looking around at his teammates in an altogether different pose.

Having sliced a clearance right out of play, he looked around him and shrugged his shoulders: ‘What else am I supposed to do?’ 

At this stage, the skies were being sketched to grey and Dundalk were struggling for air amid a Rovers storm. 

Trevor Clarke and Gary Rogers Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

A slipped pass through for Carr finally came off, who slid a pass across the penalty area for Ronan Finn, whose first-time effort was superbly blocked in front of the line by a flailing Dane Massey. 

The resulting corner was goal-bound from Joey O’Brien’s head only to hit Carr on its way in. Rovers were undeterred, and Gannon’s skewing the ball out of play led directly to Jack Byrne dribbling goalward and letting fly from 25 yards, only to see the ball cannon off Rogers’ crossbar. 

So emboldened were Rovers that centre-half Roberto Lopes was seen half-connecting with an overhead kick in the Dundalk box two minutes later. 

Dundalk improved in the second-half, with Hoban twice forcing Joey O’Brien into brave blocks. 

The stadium erupted into fury on the hour mark. A sloppy square pass by Massey was intercepted by Trevor Clarke, who galloped goalward and knocked the ball around the onrushing Rogers. 

The Dundalk ‘keeper tripped Clarke, but with Tallaght howling for a red card, referee Robert Harvey opted for yellow.

That Clarke was arcing away from goal and a couple of Dundalk defenders were arriving toward the goal line worked in Rogers’ favour. 

As did the opening goal.

Jamie McGrath rolled a pass to the endline for the overlapping Gannon, who side-footed a shot through O’Brien’s legs, off the post and into the net. 

From there, Dundalk bared their teeth, with Gannon flashing a shot wide from distance and Hoban spurning a breakaway with a fizzing shot directly at Mannus. 

Aaron Greene, introduced as a replacement for Carr, had a couple of chances to equalise – first hacking over a volley before arrowing a lower shot narrowly wide of Rogers’ left-hand post. 

Rovers kept pushing but to no avail, and Dundalk held on for a hugely significant win in the title race. 

Gannon’s final gesture was a fist-pump in front of the Dundalk fans at full-time, with Vinny Perth following up with a series of his own. 

It was hardly deserved, but as the ecstasy general among the Dundalk fans attests – they won’t care about that. 

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O’Brien, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Trevor Clarke; Greg Bolger, Dylan Watts (Brandon Kavanagh 76′); Jack Byrne, Ronan Finn, Sean Kavanagh; Dan Carr (Aaron Greene 72′)

Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Sean Hoare, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Sean Murray (Jamie McGrath, 64′);  John Mountney (Robbie Benson 78′), Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban (Georgie Kelly 85′)

Referee: Robert Harvey

Attendance: 5015

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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