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Towell's double from the spot hands Dundalk narrow advantage over Hoops

Stephen Kenny’s Lilywhites take a 2-1 lead into the second leg of their Setanta Sports Cup semi-final against Shamrock Rovers.

The Dundalk players celebrate with goalscorer Towell.
The Dundalk players celebrate with goalscorer Towell.
Image: INPHO/Donall Farmer

Shamrock Rovers 1-2 Dundalk

EAMON ZAYED GAVE Shamrock Rovers a lifeline they scarcely deserved when he struck six minutes from time in tonight’s Setanta Sports Cup semi-final first leg.

Two Richie Towell penalties in the first half left the Hoops’ All-Ireland title defence hanging by a thread.

And if they are to have any chance of turning this tie around when the sides meet again in three weeks, they will need a massive improvement on an unimaginative performance that matched the bleak conditions in Tallaght Stadium.

It was Dundalk who played with the greater confidence throughout, though manager Stephen Kenny will know that they could have put this one to bed had David McMillan and Patrick Hoban been more clinical when they still held the upper hand in the second half.

Instead they invited Rovers back into the game and were punished when Gary McCabe threaded a pass through for Zayed to finish.

Both sides faced a quick turnaround following their weekend wins and, with Sligo visiting here in the league on Friday, the best indication of Trevor Croly’s priorities was on the team-sheets where he made six changes. Dundalk, who played on Saturday and had a day less to recover, only made three.

It was one of the Hoops’ new faces, reserve goalkeeper Craig Hyland, who was the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons early on.

He was lucky not to see red when he brought down John Mountney on 10 minutes and though referee Paul Tuite benevolently spared him an early bath, there was little he could do to stop Towell’s composed penalty.

Towell was an obvious standout in a pretty average game and he doubled Dundalk’s advantage from the spot in the 33rd minute.

Mountney made a nuisance of himself again and was tripped by Conor Kenna inside the box. Referee Tuite initially looked to have waved the Lilywhites’ appeals away but after a moment of consideration, and of consultation with his extended team of officials, he pointed to the spot again for Towell to convert.

Croly looked to inject a bit of life into Rovers’ limp display by introducing Ronan Finn and McCabe early in the second half.

But the better chances fell to Dundalk. First McMillan forced Hyland into a smart save from a one-on-one and then, after what was arguably the move of the match involving a brilliant raking pass from Towell and a measured touch by Ruaidhri Higgins, Hoban squandered a glorious opportunity from six yards out.

Rovers did show some signs of life in the final quarter and gave themselves something to cling to six minutes from the end when McCabe provided the spark that had been missing for most of the night and Zayed supplied the finish.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Hyland, Madden, Kenna (c), Cornwall, Byrne, Kelly (Finn h/t), Bayly, Robinson (Brennan 83), O’Connor, Sheppard (McCabe 58), Zayed.

Substitutes: Murphy, McGuinness, Heaney, Brennan, Finn, McCabe, Kilduff.

DUNDALK: Cherrie, Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey, Shields, O’Donnell (c, Higgins 52), Mountney (Meenan 80), Towell, Byrne, McMillan (Hoban 67).

Substitutes: Sava, Horgan, Hoban, Higgins, Griffin, Kelly, Meehan.

Referee: Paul Tuite

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Niall Kelly

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