Long-range strikes hand Shamrock Rovers victory over Dundalk

Danny Mandroiu and Dylan Watts scored for the champions in a crucial early-season win.

Danny Mandroiu celebrates his goal.
Danny Mandroiu celebrates his goal.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Shamrock Rovers 2

Dundalk 1

A NEAT PARABLE on Easter Weekend: the side with the better goalkeeper usually wins. Thus it proved at Tallaght Stadium tonight, as Shamrock Rovers won a full-blooded meeting with Dundalk through goals in either half from Danny Mandroiu and Dylan Watts. 

Both were fine strikes from range though Alessio Abibi might have saved the first and should have saved the second, while Alan Mannus was in a decidedly stingy mood, denying Michael Duffy thrice before he was finally beaten by Pat Hoban’s close range header in the game’s dying minutes. 

No matter, Rovers held on and leave Dundalk with just one point from their opening three league games.

Dundalk had the advantage of playing last weekend – albeit a dubious benefit given they lost to Harps – whereas Rovers’ slated game with Derry City was called off for international call-ups. 

As it turned out Rovers’ game did not have to be postponed – Derry ‘keeper Nathan Gartside’s Northern Ireland call-up was scuppered by an administrative cock-up – whereas Dundalk’s probably should have: they had Raivis Jurkovskis and Sonni Nattestad away with Latvia and the Faroe Islands respectively, but the rules only allow for games to be called off in the event of call ups to the either the Irish or Northern Irish squads. 

A red card here in the President’s Cup three weeks ago ruled Nattestad out through suspension, and it could not have been served while he was away because the Harps game that was not called off despite his unavailability did not count toward his suspension because of his unavailability.

Dundalk weren’t the only ones missing a defender in curious circumstances – Rovers didn’t have Roberto Lopes as he was away with Cape Verde, which was then added to the government’s mandatory quarantine list while he was away. 

Another defender went down after just 45 seconds of this game, as Brian Gartland crumpled to the ground when turning with Daniel Mandroiu. It looks a serious injury: Gartland was on the floor for almost five minutes before being stretchered away. 

If Dundalk had more match conditioning it didn’t show in the opening moments, as Rovers chased them and penned them back, with Chris McCann forcing Abibi into a fine save from distance. They might have scored with their first attack, however, as Michael Dufy sprinted clear on a counter attack and saw his perfect, skidding low cross superbly blocked by Sean Hoare before Pat Hoban could force the ball in from range. 

Rovers hogged most of the ball without creating much clear-cut, until Danny Mandroiu took things into his own hands just past the half hour mark, receiving a quick free-kick and smacking the ball in from distance beyond Abibi. 

Dundalk teenager Ryan O’Kane flitted on the fringes of the first half and he didn’t reappear for the second half, replaced by towering Faroese striker Ole Erik Midtskogen. He appeared in a game that quickly clicked into frenzy. In the opening five minutes of the second half alone, Aaron Greene had a goal ruled out for offside, Alan Mannus beat away a wicked Michael Duffy drive, and Mandroiu had what looked like a very strong penalty appeal waved away. 

Dundalk’s luck was out shortly after, as Duffy saw a shot bounce back off the crossbar with Mannus beaten. Now playing a 4-3-3 having briefly experimented with Greg Sloggett at centre-back, Dundalk were vastly improved and Alan Mannus made a stunning save to deny an ultimately offside Pat Hoban from close range when Stephen Bradley swapped Graham Burke for Dylan Watts to stem the their opponent’s momentum. 

Not that his introduction blunted Rovers in any particular way, and he rolled the ball to Sean Gannon see a shot skid narrowly wide of Abibi’s right-hand post. 

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Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe was introduced for Dundalk – Sloggett, brought on for Gartland, jogged off for the touchline with the pace of a man eager to minimise the ignominy – and he made an instant impact, a neat back-heel linking with Dummigan, whose low cross was volleyed goanward by Duffy and again saved by Mannus. 

Mannus’ reliability was accentuated moments later by what happened at the other end. Dylan Watts was given too much room to shoot 30 yards from goal, but Abibi should have done better than let his shot pass beneath his right hand. 

Dundalk pressed on and finally got their goal with two minutes remaining, Hoban heading in a stunning Chris Shields cross from close range. 

Rovers held on however, leaving Dundalk cradling only a spirit rally rather than a resurrection. 

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Hoare, Lee Grace, Liam Scales; Sean Gannon (Gary O’Neill, 73′), Ronan Finn (captain), Chris McCann, Sean Kavanagh; Graham Burke (Dylan Watts, 63′), Danny Mandroiu (Rory Gaffney, 77′); Aaron Greene 

Dundalk: Alessio Abibi; Brian Gartland (Greg Sloggett, 5′) (Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe, 73′), Andy Boyle, Daniel Cleary; Raivis Jurkovskis (Darragh Leahy, 81′), Sam Stanton, Chris Shields (captain), Cameron Dummigan; Michael Duffy, Pat Hoban, Ryan O’Kane (Ole Erik Midtskogen, HT)

Referee: Paul McLaughlin

About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from Tallaght Stadium

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