Jack Byrne wonder-strike the highlight as Shamrock Rovers beat Sligo to extend lead

The Hoops celebrated 10 years at Tallaght Stadium with a stylish win.

Shamrock Rovers' Daniel Carr celebrates scoring a goal with Greg Bolger and Aaron Greene.
Shamrock Rovers' Daniel Carr celebrates scoring a goal with Greg Bolger and Aaron Greene.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Shamrock Rovers 3

Sligo Rovers 0

Paul Fennessy reports from Tallaght Stadium

SHAMROCK ROVERS EXTENDED their lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League tonight with a convincing 3-0 win over a lacklustre Sligo.

Goals from Dan Carr, Ronan Finn and Jack Byrne saw Rovers earn a victory their dominance deserved in this one-sided affair.

With Mick McCarthy and the rest of the Irish management team watching on, it was ex-Man City youngster Byrne who was at the heart of much of the home side’s good work, and the midfielder provided the icing on the cake with a stunning second-half strike to ensure the victory.

The Hoops went into the game in encouraging form with 13 points from their previous six games seeing them top the table, as they began the day two points ahead of second-place Bohemians, who fell further back amid a loss to Cork tonight.

Sligo, meanwhile, sat sixth with two wins, two losses and a draw from their first five  fixtures.

A scrappy opening 10 minutes saw little in the way of goalmouth action. Carr’s header wide from a Trevor Clarke cross was the one half-chance early on that got the home crowd excited.

Moments later, Rovers went closer. Byrne found Carr down the left. The attacker’s subsequent cross was deflected into the path of Finn, but John Mahon was alert to make a timely block on the midfielder’s goal-bound effort.

As the first half progressed, Shamrock Rovers increasingly controlled the play. Yet despite the creative likes of Byrne, Finn and Aaron McEneff in midfield, the hosts lacked threat initially as they struggled to break down a stubborn Sligo backline.

The stop-start nature of the game didn’t help the Hoops’ cause as they tried manfully to develop some rhythm to their play.

Gradually, however, the hosts began to look more dangerous in the opposition’s final third. On 25 minutes, Byrne found right-back Joey O’Brien with an incisive defence-splitting pass, yet the ex-Bolton man’s cross eluded the Rovers attackers.

Moments later, Rovers thought they had the lead. A superb cross from Byrne found Aaron Greene, who side-footed a volley home from close range, but the linesman’s raised flag ensured the match remained scoreless.

It was the influential Byrne who was in the thick of it again shortly thereafter. Finn’s pass found the talented midfielder on the edge of the area, and the 22-year-old’s curled attempt was expertly tipped over by the outstretched arm of Mitchell Beeney.

Sligo were finding themselves pinned back into their own half more and more, with Alan Mannus a virtual bystander for most of the opening 45.

Knowing they were up against a superior calibre of player, Liam Buckley’s side were more than happy to sit deep and soak up what their rivals could throw at them, and for large portions of the opening half, they succeeded in frustrating the league leaders.

On 39 minutes, however, the pressure finally told. Byrne’s lofted corner found Carr at the far post and the 25-year-old English striker swept home a lovely first-time finish.

Rovers threatened a second two minutes later. McEneff found Greene on the edge of the area, and Beeney did well to tip away the 29-year-old’s sliding effort for a corner.

Joey O'Brien is tackled by Romeo Parkes Shamrock Rovers' Joey O'Brien is tackled by Romeo Parkes of Sligo Rovers. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Sligo, who failed to register an attempt on target in the first half, tried to address their problems at the break, with Liam Kerrigan replacing the ineffectual Romeo Parkes.

It was Rovers who started the second half the brighter though, with Carr’s shot from about 30 yards out going inches wide.

On 52 minutes, Rovers were nearly rewarded for some lovely interplay. McEneff started off the move, before Byrne’s intelligent first-time pass played through Finn who squared it to Carr, but the striker failed to add a second, as his sliding finish went narrowly wide.

Carr continued to look lively and just before the hour mark, he went on a powerful individual run, beating the defender for pace before firing over from the edge of the area.

Three minutes later, Sligo produced a rare attempt on goal, as Chris Twardek’s cross was headed off target by Ronan Coughlan.

Not long after, down the other end, Rovers doubled their advantage and effectively ended the match as a contest. Byrne played through Greene, whose attempt was blocked, before the ball fell favourably to Finn, who produced a superb finish on the edge of the area that found the corner of the net.

Greene then nearly made it three for a rampant Rovers two minutes later. O’Brien played the attacker through, but his attempt from an acute angle was narrowly wide, with the better-positioned Carr visibly annoyed at his team-mate for not squaring the ball in his direction.

The half became more open as it developed, with Sligo desperately seeking a goal. Coughlan went close on 80 minutes, steering a shot on the turn just wide from close range.

For the most part though, Rovers looked comfortable and continued to threaten, before adding a fantastic third with eight minutes remaining.

It was fitting that it came from their standout performer Byrne, who curled a wonder-strike into the corner from outside the box, after a clever one-two with Greene.

Three minutes later, McEneff threatened to get in on the act, as he drilled a shot just wide from roughly 30 yards out.

Substitute Dylan Watts also went close in the dying seconds, as his curled effort from distance hit the outside of the post.

It mattered little in the end, as Rovers saw out a comfortable victory to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their move to Tallaght Stadium in style and go four points clear at the top of the table.

Shamrock Rovers: 1. Alan Mannus 4. Roberto Lopes 5. Lee Grace 28. Joey O’Brien 20. Trevor Clarke (Kavanagh 69) 6. Greg Bolger 8. Ronan Finn (Watts 67) 29. Jack Byrne 10. Aaron McEneff 9. Dan Carr (Coustrain 80) 22. Aaron Greene

Subs: 25. Leon Pohls 3. Sam Bone 7. Dylan Watts 11. Sean Kavanagh 17. Joel Coustrain 27. Brandon Kavanagh 34. Orhan Vojic

Sligo Rovers: 33. Mitchell Beeney 2. Lewis Banks 25. Niall Morahan 5. Kyle McFadden 6. Johnny Dunleavy 14. Chris Twardek 21. John Mahon 22. David Cawley (Warde 78) 19. Ronan Murray (Fordyce 78)  27. Romeo Parkes (Kerrigan 46) 7. Ronan Coughlan

Subs: 3. Regan Donelon 4. Sam Warde 8. Daryl Fordyce 20. Jack Kearney 23. Liam Kerrigan 16. Luke McNicholas 63. Dante Leverock

Bernard Jackman joins Murray Kinsella and Ryan Bailey on The42 Rugby Weekly as Ireland bid to spoil Wales’ Grand Slam party in Cardiff, and the U20s target their own piece of history.

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Paul Fennessy

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