Fenn in fine fettle to punish lacklustre Rovers
Shamrock Rvs 0
MICHAEL O'NEILL locked his players in the dressing-room for over half an hour after the Hoops' disastrous start to the campaign continued with an abject loss to Dundalk in Tallaght.
And the Northern Irishman admitted afterwards that his charges, who have taken just a point from their opening three games, do not look like title contenders at this juncture. Arch rivals Bohemians maintained their 100pc record with a dramatic win in Drogheda on Friday.
"It doesn't mean that we won't be but we don't look it at the moment," said O'Neill. "We're going through a bad patch. The players aren't stupid, and we know what's required individually and collectively and that includes myself and Trevor (Croly -- assistant manager).
Meanwhile, Dundalk are sitting pretty with seven points from a possible nine, with manager Ian Foster stating this was by far their best display so far.
That said, he was still irate with the match officials, who somehow missed a blatant red-card offence by home 'keeper Alan Mannus in the second half. "The referee did everything to get them back into the game," said Foster, who was aggrieved that his team picked up five yellow cards.
The hosts, under pressure to bounce back from a limp collapse to St Patrick's Athletic here on Tuesday, were dreadful throughout. Continually wasteful in possession, they were undone by the first half-decent pass of a dour game 10 minutes before the interval.
Rovers defender Aidan Price inadvertently started the passage with a terrible misjudgement of an innocuous punt. The impressive Ross Gaynor nipped in, eluded a few hooped shirts and threaded Neale Fenn into space, and the veteran striker stylishly converted.
Dundalk, who abandoned the 3-5-2 which failed to convince against Drogheda, looked more compact in a 4-5-1 shape. In truth, they comfortably contained the Dubliners who are impotent without Gary Twigg and Dessie Baker. The former started jogging yesterday.
It was Rovers' frailties at the other end of the park which were emphasised immediately after the resumption, with the Louthman doubling their advantage in leisurely fashion. Fenn was given ample time to chest down into the path of Stephen Maher whose rasping drive eluded Mannus.
By the hour mark, O'Neill had played his full hand of substitutes, but there was no penetration and the locals were actually fortunate to benefit from the latest in a series of officiating blunders that have dogged the opening weeks of the season.
Mannus dithered outside his area in collecting a Dundalk pass into no-man's land, and hacked down Gaynor as the onrushing attacker nipped in to get to the ball first. Remarkably, both referee Paul Tuite and linesman Marc Douglas missed the contact.
Luckily for Tuite and Douglas, the error proved irrelevant to the outcome.
Shamrock Rovers -- Mannus, Sullivan, Price, Murray, Stevens; Kavanagh (O'Connor 52), Rice (Bradley 45), Bayly, Cahill; Dennehy, Barrett (Cowan 59).
Dundalk -- Cherrie, Kelly, Breen, Burns, Hatswell; Kuduzovic, Maher, Melligan (McGuigan 90), Miller, Gaynor (Murphy 88); Fenn (Synnott 83).
Ref -- Paul Tuite (Dublin).