McCabe the catalyst for Hoops stroll
SHAMROCK RVS 6 UCD 0
EIGHT minutes -- that's all it took for Shamrock Rovers to step up their intensity and blow UCD away at Tallaght Stadium.
For an hour, the students looked like they might cause a shock and pick up at least a point after putting in a composed display in defence and looking assured with the ball. The home faithful were getting nervous.
Michael O'Neill introduced Gary McCabe on the right, he provided the impetus and before we knew it, the Hoops were home and dry -- four goals to the good with Ciaran Kilduff adding a late fifth and Thomas Boyle turning a sixth into his own net.
It was harsh on the visitors, but an impressive show of strength from the champions who had five different goal scorers and kept up with Derry City who lead the league on goal difference. Over to Sligo this evening.
In the middle of the European run, the less than glamorous visit of UCD was always going to be tricky for the Hoops to rise to and although Gary Twigg carried the threat in the early stages, the students -- who have now shipped 15 goals in three games against the champions -- weren't lying down and Paul O'Conor had a low effort flash wide.
Goalkeeper Ger Barron had to bail out his defence minutes later as they stopped when an offside Pat Sullivan ducked to allow Dean Kelly's ball run to Twigg, only for the stopper to deny the Scotsman.
Fresh from his winner against Bohemians, the Hoops' top scorer was looking sharp and he played a neat one-two with Craig Sives before shooting just past Barron's post from the edge of the box.
Kelly fired over with Twigg available in the box, before O'Conor had another effort from distance go just wide after a slick UCD move, with Ryan Thompson appearing to get a touch even though the referee indicated a goal-kick.
Dan Murray went high, before Robbie Creevy was given the freedom of the Rovers' penalty area only to go for an overhead kick instead of a header -- it all went horribly wrong and the Hoops escaped.
A superb Michael Leahy tackle denied Twigg a shot on goal, but the centre-half got away with it minutes later when his attempted back-pass caught the onrushing Barron short and just slipped past the post.
The lack of goals had the home faithful worried at the interval and with no sign of a breakthrough, O'Neill introduced McCabe just before the hour-mark. He made an instant impact, scurrying down the right wing and delivering a low cross for Twigg to tap home a simple finish.
The Scot's 12th goal of the season was quickly followed by an assist for Dan Murray from another dangerous McCabe pass, the ball breaking to the centre-half who rifled a shot into the roof of the net.
McCabe was again provider for a third goal in five minutes, picking the onrushing Billy Dennehy out in the box and he sent an unstoppable shot past the hapless Barron, before Enda Stevens crossed for Gary O'Neill to tap home a fourth.
Kilduff added a late fifth in the closing stages, tapping home a Twigg pullback to further dampen his former club's spirits before Boyle turned another Stevens' delivery into his own net to compound a miserable half an hour for UCD.
SHAMROCK ROVERS -- Thompson; Sullivan, Sives, Murray, Stevens; Kelly (McCabe 59), Rice, McCormack (Kilduff 74), Dennehy (Moore 70); Twigg, O'Neill.
UCD -- Barron; Harding, D O'Connor, Leahy, Nangle; Belhout, Corry (Doyle 82), P O'Conor, Creevy (Ledwith 67), Marshall (Boyle 67); Rusk.
REF -- P Tuite (Dublin).