Report: Ryan McMullen

Hoops get back to winning ways after cruising past Drogheda United in Tallaght.

Stephen Bradley made three changes to the eleven that faced Galway United on Friday; Dan Cleary returned from suspension to slot into the back three – replacing Sean Kavanagh. Richie Towell returned from injury, replacing Conan Noonan while Johnny Kenny earned a recall after his late equaliser on Friday night, coming into the side in place of Rory Gaffney who dropped out altogether after picking up a knock against Galway United.

After just one minute of play, Johnny Kenny tested Jethren Barr in goal for Drogheda with a shot from the left-hand side of the box – which the ‘keeper was able to stop comfortably down on his right.

Aaron Greene then came close. After receiving the ball inside the area from Darragh Burns on the right, the Hoops’ number 9 released a powerful strike, aiming for the bottom right, but was denied by the post initially, and Barr afterwards as the ball made its way out. The rebound fell to Kenny, which he put wide.

On the left wing, the ball came out to Trevor Clarke, with an eye for goal, but he wasn’t able to direct his attempt on target.

The home side faced an early setback when Richie Towell went down with a knock just past the half-hour mark, with Conan Noonan introduced from the bench in his place.

A corner sent in by Watts landed at the feet of Josh Honohan inside a box full of bodies, and the Caragaline man was able to get a shot away, although it was sent wide of the net, with the half-time break approaching.

Rovers were on top in the possession stats and were posing a lot of danger to Barr in goal – and it seemed as though an opener from the Hoops was inevitable.

Burns had the opportunity to grab that breakthrough with the best chance of the game so far. The 21-year-old was picked out by Noonan with a perfectly weighted ball behind the defence, opting to strike first time on the volley only to be denied by a stunning save from Barr to keep the Hoops at bay.

The reprieve would be short-lived. As the clock ticked towards first half additional time, a pinpoint delivery from a Dylan Watts corner found the head of Johnny Kenny who directed his header back across goal into the top corner to give the Hoops a well-earned lead.

The Drogheda rearguard was breached once again before the break when Darragh Burns played another perfectly weighted through ball into the path of Greene who made no mistake, firing low past Barr to send the Hoops into the break with a two-goal advantage.

Rovers started the second half how they finished the first, in the ascendency and pushing forward looking to add more goals. And on 53 minutes, they found a third.

After picking up the ball to the right of the penalty area, Burns drove inside the box, using superb footwork to beat Conor Kane to find himself a yard of space before firing high into the roof of the net from a tight angle to extend our lead.

Minutes later Barr was forced into action to deny Honohan from adding a fourth, getting down low to save a goalbound header following a Dylan Watts free-kick.

As was mentioned on Friday and was the case again for this match, six out of the nine players on the bench were under twenty years of age – Rovers’ dominance as well as the scoreline, allowed Head Coach Stephen Bradley to give some minutes on the pitch.

Max Kovalevskis, Cian Barrett and Cory O’Sullivan were all introduced, as Burns, Clarke and Watts went off, with U20s Captain John O’Sullivan replacing Cleary shortly after. A proud moment for Max, Cory and John in particular as the Academy prospects made their respective league debuts for the Club.

A bad night got even worse for the visitors when referee Rob Hennessy adjudged Jack Keaney to have fouled Johnny Kenny as he raced through on goal, resulting in a straight red card for the defender.

From the resulting free, Conan Noonan’s powerful strike was turned behind by Barr for a corner. And it was from that corner that the Hoops would add a fourth. Noonan’s delivery was met by the head of Honohan who guided home to round off the scoring.

It was an excellent home display from Rovers and an enjoyable night for their supporters who made their way to Tallaght and got behind their team for the entirety.

The Champion’s focus will now turn to Friday – when they make the trip to Dalymount Park to play Bohemians in the Dublin Derby, with kick-off set for 7:45 pm.

Shamrock Rovers: Pohls, Burns (Kovalevskis 68’), Cleary (J O’Sullivan 75’), Lopes ©, Honohan, Cleary, Clarke (Barrett 68’), Nugent, Watts (C O’Sullivan 68’), Towell (Noonan 32’), Kenny, Greene.

Shamrock Rovers unused substitutes: Steacy, Leitis, Kavanagh, Britton.

Drogheda United: Barr, Heeney (Webster 69’), Cann, Keaney, Kane, Deegan ©, Gallagher (Cailloce 60’) , McNally (Foley 54’), Markey, Davis (Bawa 54’), Pierrot (Brennan 60’).

Drogheda United unused substitutes: Wogan, Quinn, O’Brien, Topcu.

Referee: Rob Hennessy