By Killian McHale

Shamrock Rovers picked up their first win of the 2023 League of Ireland season with a dominant display in Oriel Park against Dundalk FC, culminating in a comprehensive 4-0 win for Stephen Bradley’s side.

Coming into this game, Stephen Bradley made two changes to his side from our St. Patrick’s Day draw St. Pat’s, with Lee Grace & Sean Kavanagh coming into the starting eleven in place of Roberto Lopes & Trevor Clarke.

Both sides took their time settling into the game in the early stages, failing to trouble either Nathan Shepperd & Alan Mannus in their respective goals.

Johnny Kenny came closest to opening the scoring, after an inch-perfect through ball from Sean Kavanagh on the left wing. only for the offside flag to deny him breaking the deadlock,

The pressure finally told in the 22nd minute, when Rory Gaffney headed home at the back-post beyond Shepperd after a perfectly-weighted cross from the right by Dan Cleary, to give the Hoops the lead in the Louth venue.

This woke up the home side, and they came inches away from levelling the scoring moments later, only for John Martin to fire over Alan Mannus’ crossbar following some clever play from Connor Malley and Robbie Benson.

And just after the half-hour mark, things went from bad to worse for the home side when Robbie Benson was shown a straight red card following a high tackle on Rovers captain on the night Lee Grace, right in front of the Rovers bench.

Just five minutes later Rovers gave themselves breathing space, when a Jack Byrne corner was headed back across goal by Sean Hoare and Lee Grace reacted quickest to head home to double the Champions’ lead.

Both Towell and Gaffney had opportunities before the halftime whistle to extend our lead, but neither could find the target as the Hoops went in two goals to the good at the break.

The home side came out of the traps quickest at the start of the second half, as Alan Mannus had to react fast inside the opening minute of the half to stop a Rayhaan Tulloch cut-back.

Dundalk limited Rovers from creating any clear-cut chances for the opening twenty minutes of the second half, but with the man advantage, Rovers eventually tired out the home side when Johnny Kenny headed home a Richie Towell cross to extend the Hoops’ lead even further.

And three became four just five minutes later when substitute Graham Burke fired home from close range beyond Nathan Shepperd after clever play by Sean Kavanagh down the left-hand side.

Rovers saw out the remaining twelve minutes of the game to pick up a much-needed win, in perfect fashion in front of a packed out, rain-drenched, away end in Oriel Park.

Rovers are back on the road next Friday (7th April), this time making the short journey across the Liffey to take on Bohemian FC at Dalymount Park.

Dundalk: Shepperd (GK); Davies, Williams, Boyle ©, Leahy (79’ McCourt); Sloggett, Lewis (68’ Yli-Kokko); Benson, Malley (75’ Ward), Tulloch (67’ O’Kane); Martin (75’ Kelly).

Dundalk Unused Substitutes: Peter Cherrie (GK), Mark Byrne (GK), Hayden Muller, Anthony Mayo.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus (GK); Cleary, Grace ©, Hoare, Farrugia (74’ Nugent), O’Neill, Towell, Kavanagh (79’ Watts); Byrne (59’ Poom), Kenny (74’ Greene), Gaffney (74’ Burke).

Shamrock Rovers Unused Substitutes: Leon Pohls (GK), Sean Gannon, Roberto Lopes, Ronan Finn.

Attendance: 3,761.