Wednesday 21 February 2018

Dennehy rampant for red-hot Rovers


It may be down his list of priorities, but winning the FAI Cup is still on Michael O'Neill's agenda.

And, with this comfortable win -- UCD were completely overwhelmed in the first half -- the defending Airticity League champions progressed to the quarter-finals, where they will meet the holders Sligo Rovers in a repeat of last year's final.

That tie promises to be much more difficult than this, though, because UCD, for all their merits, were simply overpowered by a team who are fighting on three fronts: the Europa League, the Airtricity League and the FAI Cup.

That they are managing to keep the home fires burning when trips to Russia, Greece and London await suggests an impressive mentality. It wasn't the only thing impressive about last night.

To that list add Billy Dennehy and Ronan Finn, two of the finest players in the league.

Just five minutes in Dennehy opened the scoring after the UCD captain, Michael Leahy, was penalised for handling Dennehy's cross.

With a penalty awarded, Dennehy stood up to take it and, after seeing his shot saved by UCD 'keeper Ger Barron, the winger followed up to convert the rebound.


Thereafter, UCD crumbled, their confidence dashed by the early setback. On 19 minutes, Dennehy was again instrumental, providing the cross for midfielder Chris Turner to head the second goal from eight yards.

By now, Rovers' tails were up. Ciaran Kilduff came close to adding a third before Gary McCabe did so, scoring the second penalty of the game after Leahy had pulled back Gary O'Neill, earning a red card for his sins.

From UCD's perspective, nothing was going right. To their credit they retained both their discipline and their defensive shape and, in attack, they came close via midfielder Paul Corry, whose 30-yard shot brought out the best in 'keeper Richard Brush.

Finn and Turner went close before Dennehy got the second of his three goals just before the break, drilling low under Barron after the 'keeper could only parry Sean Gannon's initial shot.

The woodwork then deprived Dennehy his hat-trick on 53 minutes, but 18 minutes later he got the match ball when he converted Paddy Kavanagh's right-wing cross.

Kavanagh was having plenty of freedom on the right, as UCD set up a tight 4-4-1 formation to try and limit the damage. But there is only so much a system can do when players like Finn and Kavanagh are around.

The former pinged the ball around with precision, the latter crossed with menace, supplying the delivery for the sixth Rovers goal in injury-time, converted by O'Neill.

UCD -- Barron; Harding (Douglas 78), O'Connor, Leahy, Ledwith; Benson, Creevy, Corry, P O'Conor, Belhout (Meenan 52), Rusk (Boyle 28).

Shamrock Rovers -- Brush; Sullivan (Shannon 61), Gannon, Murray, Memery; McCabe (Kavanagh 61), Turner, Finn, Dennehy (Sheppard 88); O'Neill, Kilduff.

Ref -- D McKeon (Dublin).

Irish Independent

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