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Five-star Hoops cruise to three points as Bradley's men eye automatic European spot

Ronan Finn, Dylan Watts, Greg Bolger and Roberto Lopes were all on the scoresheet during Friday’s win.

Greg Bolger celebrates with his Shamrock Rovers team-mates.
Greg Bolger celebrates with his Shamrock Rovers team-mates.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Shamrock Rovers 5

Limerick 0

Aaron Gallagher reports from Tallaght Stadium

SHAMROCK ROVERS TOOK another important step towards an automatic European finish on Friday night, with Stephen Bradley’s men impressing from start to finish en route to a comprehensive 5-0 victory against struggling Limerick.

The Hoops leapfrogged Waterford FC into third place following back-to-back away wins against league leaders Dundalk and Bray Wanderers a fortnight ago, and they built on that momentum with another strong display thanks to goals from Greg Bolger, Dylan Watts, Roberto Lopes and a double from captain Ronan Finn.

The hosts have completed a drastic turnaround in fortunes in recent months and, on the basis of Friday night’s one-sided display at Tallaght Stadium, are showing no let-up and few signs of letting go their grip on third place with five games remaining.

Limerick’s potential destiny of a relegation play-off loomed before kick-off and that fate only drew closer with this defeat — their evening’s woe inflicted early as skipper Finn fired the hosts ahead with less than two minutes on the clock.

Brandon Kavanagh with Shane Tracy Brandon Kavanagh in action for Shamrock Rovers on Friday night. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Tommy Barrett’s side have not won a Premier Division fixture since 27 July, with this defeat their 19th from 31 games. From the moment Finn drove a thunderbolt from the edge of the box flying into the back of the net past goalkeeper Jack Brady, the Blues faced an impossible task to try and ignite the most impossible of great escapes.

Greg Bolger mimicked Finn’s opening goal with a long-range piledriver of his own ten minutes later to double his side’s advantage. The midfield general latched onto a smart corner played short by Dylan Watts, before driving the ball through the air until it cracked the back of Brady’s net for 2-0.

The game’s result seemed inevitable thereafter, however Limerick’s dramatic late equaliser when the side’s met back in April courtesy of Danny Morrissey in the 86th minute meant all hope might not be lost with close to 80 minutes still left on the clock.

But any optimism of a similar comeback was dashed soon after, as Rovers made it 3-0 just seven minutes after Bolger’s goal, Watts the provider this time turning goalscorer.

The former Leicester City man had a stroke of luck with his strike; his right-footed shot from close range taking a wicked and decisive deflection off defender Shaun Kelly, before the ball spun over the head of Brady and into the back of the net as the goalkeeper desperately scrambled backwards.

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Ronan Finn celebrates scoring a goal Captain Ronan Finn scored a brace against Limerick. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Bradley’s side would boast a 4-0 lead heading into half-time, their dominance not yielding despite three points looking all but guaranteed long before the interval.

An in-swinging corner courtesy of impressive 17-year-old Brandon Kavanagh met the agile run of Roberto Lopes. The defender leapt high into the air before bending a brilliant header into goalkeeper Brady’s far corner a minute before the break.

The game’s intensity dropped throughout the second half, however even at a slower pace the hosts enjoyed the upper hand as Barrett’s men struggled to get any sort of cohesive attacking pattern together in the final third to feed Billy Dennehy and Danny Morrissey up front.

Finn compounded the visitor’s agony with half an hour remaining. The captain followed up on a stamina-induced individual run from Watts, latching onto a pullback from the winger before firing a low effort into the back of the net to make it 5-0.

A fine piece of intricate passing play saw William Fitzgerald offer a rare sight at goal at the opposite end, but the 19-year-old’s effort proved far too tame to test goalkeeper Alan Mannus.

The chance would be as close as Limerick got to a second-half consolation, as Rovers maintained their five goal lead — and their clean sheet — to take another big step towards securing European football for next season.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Alan Mannus; Ethan Boyle, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Sean Kavanagh; Greg Bolger, Ronan Finn (Aaron Bolger 63), Brandon Miele (Dan Carr 63), Brandon Kavanagh, Dylan Watts; Aaron Greene (Dean Williams 75)

LIMERICK: Jack Brady; Shaun Kelly, Colman Kennedy, Killian Brouder (Killian Cantwell 58), Shane Tracy; Darren Murphy (Cian Coleman 63), Shane Duggan, Barry Maguire (Karl O’Sullivan 76), William Fitzgerald, Billy Dennehy; Danny Morrissey

Referee: Sean Grant

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Aaron Gallagher

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