O'Donnell injury the only scare for ruthless Dundalk
Shamrock Rvs 0 Dundalk 3
Published 15/10/2016 | 02:30
The tests continue to come for Dundalk but they keep finding the answers and last night's emphatic victory in Tallaght was another big step towards retaining their league title.
The Lilywhites were at their brilliant best and a really poor Shamrock Rovers side were helpless to deny them maintaining their four-point lead at the top of the table after Cork also saw off Finn Harps.
It took 53 minutes for the visitors to eventually find a way past Barry Murphy but as soon as Brian Gartland opened the scoring, the floodgates opened and further goals from Dane Massey and substitute Ciaran Kilduff sealed a comfortable win.
The Lilywhites' focus will now switch to their second of four games in 10 days against Longford Town on Monday but Stephen Kenny's immediate concern will be the fitness of Stephen O'Donnell.
A hamstring injury forced the Dundalk skipper off against his former club after 13 minutes and Kenny will be hoping that it is nothing serious with Zenit coming to Tallaght on Thursday.
Dundalk were much slicker in possession and despite their busy schedule, their fitness levels were again hugely impressive.
David McMillan was a constant threat up front with Daryl Horgan and Patrick McEleney linking well with him, while at the other end the isolated Gary Shaw was forced to live off scraps.
Rovers' bright start was dampened as quickly as the Tallaght surface was drowned in a deluge and Dundalk handled the slippery conditions better.
The champions almost opened the scoring after three minutes but Barry Murphy came off his line quickly to deny McMillan as he bore down on goal.
Chris Shields replaced the injured O'Donnell and that didn't halt any of their momentum. A major part of Dundalk's success under Kenny has been his man management of the entire squad and last night was no different as Shields bossed the midfield.
Murphy had to be alert again after quarter of an hour when he saved a Massey effort but he really should have been given no chance just a minute later when McEleney collected McMillan's knock-down.
McEleney got his shot all wrong and miscued his shot over the bar. The warning signs were there but Rovers continued to ride their luck. Two further Murphy saves from McMillan and Horgan kept it scoreless and right on the stroke of half-time John Mountney fluffed his lines.
The relentless pressure continued after the break and Murphy again came to the rescue seven minutes after the restart when he did well to tip Horgan's stinging drive over the bar.
He was left utterly exposed from Mountney's resulting corner however.
Gartland rose highest and met the cross and although Murphy saved it, he was unable to keep out the rebound as the centre-half poked the ball home.
Alan Keane had a penalty claim waved away but it mattered little as two minutes after the hour mark, Dundalk doubled their lead.
Garland was again instrumental as his deft flick over the defence found Kilduff who unselfishly squared the ball for Massey who had the easiest of tasks to the tap into an empty net.
It was exquisite, intricate football that has been indicative of Dundalk's style of play over the last couple of seasons and it really is a joy to watch.
Kilduff was rewarded with a goal of his own with 20 minutes remaining when he capitalised on yet more poor Rovers defending to score against his former club.
The Hoops eventually threatened on 75 minutes but Shaw's shot was blocked by Gartland.
Horgan almost made it four after a mazy run late on as Rovers threw in the towel.
Against a Rovers side who are just three places off the top, last night should have been a much more difficult affair for Dundalk but the football they are playing is on a different planet.
This was just the latest evidence of that.
Shamrock Rovers - Murphy; Madden, Heaney, O'Connor, T Clarke; Miele (Doona 65), McCabe (capt), Webster, D Clarke (Kiely 62), Boyd; Shaw.
Dundalk - Sava; Keane, Gartland, Boyle, Massey; O'Donnell (capt) (Shields 13), Finn; Mountney, McEleney (Shiels 76), Horgan; McMillan (Kilduff 55).
REF - P McLaughlin (Donegal)