By Killian McHale
Shamrock Rovers returned to winning ways on Friday night with an impressive victory over Dundalk FC at Tallaght Stadium, thanks to a brace from Aaron Greene either side of half-time.
Hoops boss Stephen Bradley was forced into changes for this game due to suspensions, with Lee Grace, Ronan Finn and Aaron Greene all coming into the starting eleven in place of Sean Hoare, Neil Farrugia and Richie Towell, who all had to miss out on the game.
Dundalk were first to threaten the Rovers defence, when Archie Davis headed a Darragh Leahy corner goal-bound, only for Ronan Finn to head the ball back out for another set-piece.
On the 18th minute mark, Jack Byrne played an inch-perfect ball over the top of the Dundalk defence to Aaron Greene, before the attacker looked to get around Nathan Sheppard in the visitor’s goal, only for the keeper to get down low and clear the danger.
Moments later it was Dundalk who came inches away from taking the lead, as Greg Sloggett headed a Daniel Kelly delivery narrowly wide of Leon Pohls’ post.
On the half-hour mark, Jack Byrne picked up a loose ball inside the Dundalk half, playing Markus Poom in behind the Dundalk defence, but the midfielder’s effort was saved by Sheppard in the Dundalk goal.
Rovers eventually found the breakthrough they deserved ten minutes before the break when Aaron Greene was on hand to fire home from close range after a dangerous low cross from the right by Ronan Finn after good build-up play involving Greene and Gaffney.
The Hoops went in at the break with a deserved lead but were dealt a blow at the start of the second half when captain Ronan Finn was shown a straight red card for a foul on Rayhaan Tulloch as he bared down on goal. From the resulting free, Darragh Leahy’s curled effort went narrowly wide of the post.
Rovers could have doubled their lead on the hour mark when Daniel Cleary’s goal-bound effort was cleared off the line by the Dundalk defence following a Jack Byrne corner.
However, Rovers did manage to double their lead in the 62nd minute when Aaron Greene picked up his second of the game, dribbling past the advancing Sheppard in the Dundalk penalty area and firing home into an empty net after good play from Rory Gaffney down the right-wing.
And Greene could have had his hat trick just minutes later, but he was denied by the legs of Sheppard once more.
Dundalk continued to throw bodies forward in the closing stages in search of a route back into the game. Five minutes from time Keith Ward’s effort was cleared off the line by Daniel Cleary, representing the Lilywhites’ best opportunity, but the Rovers defence remained resolute, seeing out the remainder of the game to move back to the top of the SSE Airtricity League Men’s Premier Division.
Rovers are back on the road on Monday evening, travelling West to Sligo to face Sligo Rovers in The Showgrounds, with kick-off set for the earlier time of 6 pm.
Shamrock Rovers: Pohls; Cleary, Lopes, Grace; Finn ©, O’Neill, Poom, Kavanagh (63’ Gannon); Byrne (75’ Burt), Greene (86’ Cruise), Gaffney (75’ Nugent).
Shamrock Rovers unused substitutes: Leitis (GK), Burke, Ferizaj, Tetteh, Noonan.
Dundalk: Sheppard; Davies, Muller (71’ Elliott), Boyle, Leahy; Doyle (63’ Lewis), Sloggett (63’ Ward), Kelly (71’ O’Kane), Malley, Tulloch; Hoban ©.
Dundalk unused substitutes: Cherrie (GK), Annesley, Martin, Yli-Kokko, Williams.