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  Richie Towell celebrates scoring for Dundalk. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Richie Towell celebrates scoring for Dundalk. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Richie Towell celebrates scoring for Dundalk. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

O'DONNELL praises effort of team-mates as Dundalk take down big two on their travels

Stephen O'Donnell hailed the character of his Dundalk team-mates after they overcame some travel fatigue to come away from Tallaght Stadium with a 2-1 win which puts them in sight of a place in the Setanta Sports Cup final.

Dundalk were most unhappy at being asked to play away to Shamrock Rovers last night, just 48 hours after an energy-sapping league game away to Sligo Rovers, but Stephen Kenny's men made it two wins from two, following up that 1-0 win in Sligo with a 2-1 victory in Tallaght.

Richie Towell was the man of the night for Dundalk as two first half penalties from the former Celtic man gave Dundalk a 2-0 lead with only 33 minutes on the clock, Rovers responding with a goal six minutes from time by √Čamon Zayed.

Zayed's goal keeps Rovers in the tie ahead of the second leg in Oriel Park on April 15.

"Tiredness and fatigue set in in the second half as we were playing our second game in 48 hours and I think it was disrespectful, forcing us to play away from home on a Saturday night and a Monday night, but we showed what we are made of," said Dundalk captain O'Donnell.

"We pride ourselves on our fitness. We won the toss last night and we wanted to play with the wind, use the elements to try and get on top early, which we did. We got two goals and could have had a third. It was a bit of a blow to concede so late in the game, but we're delighted to get the win.

"If you had asked us before the game if we'd be happy with a 2-1 win, we'd have bitten your hand off. Two away wins against two of the bigger teams in the space of 48 hours, that's a very good return," added O'Donnell.

The former Rovers hero had a key role in the opening goal for Dundalk, as his perfect pass into the box on 10 minutes fell for midfielder John Mountney, and Rovers keeper Craig Hyland took down Mountney in the box. Debutant Hyland escaped with only a yellow card, but did concede a penalty, which Towell converted.

On 33 minutes, Dundalk had another penalty, this time it was defender Conor Kenna who was the guilty party as he felled Mountney in the box and, once again, Towell stepped up to slam home the kick.

Rovers looked sluggish and manager Trevor Croly reacted with a number of changes, hauling off the ineffective Dean Kelly at the break to bring on Ronan Finn, while Gary McCabe was introduced early in the second half.

The switches did inject more life into Rovers and that yielded an 84th minute goal for Zayed, the Libya international finishing from close range after good work by McCabe and, while a 2-1 deficit ahead of the away leg looks a lot better than 2-0, Rovers will have to work hard to retain their trophy.

Rovers boss Croly was pleased with his side's response in the second half, but was not so enthused by the first 45 minutes.

"In the first half we were poor, we stood off them and didn't do our job, we gave them time and they were the better team in the first half, no doubt about that," said Croly.

"In the second half, we were better, we came out and played, we got our just reward with a goal and maybe could have had another.

"We didn't play as a team, I made changes and we played better in the second half."


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