Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk share the spoils in Tallaght stalemate
Shamrock Rovers 0 Dundalk 0
IF Dermot Desmond follows through on his planned investment in Shamrock Rovers, then the old rivalry between these clubs could be about to embark on an exciting phase.
One can only hope that it involves more goals and chances than this Tallaght stalemate, a game that threatened to burst into life without really succeeding.
Neither manager will be too unhappy with a point at this stage of the campaign.
Shamrock Rovers retain the look of a work in progress, whereas a more settled Dundalk team are trying to click into gear.
Vinny Perth's team were responsible for the better passages of play without making a compelling case for being unlucky. No heroics were required from either goalkeeper to collect their clean sheet.
Rovers defended well, with Roberto Lopes sent to right full to shackle Michael Duffy and centre halves Joey O'Brien and Lee Grace doing an effective stopping job.
They still have issues to attend to at the other end of the pitch, however. Austrian striker Orhan Vojic did little to advertise his claims as the answer to their problems, yet Rovers' array of creative midfielders weren't exactly cutting the opposition apart either.
Stephen Bradley has a job to do there. If the visit of the champions was about making a statement, they fell short.
Monday's derby defeat to Bohemians went downhill for the Hoops after a promising opening. Their followers in the crowd of 4,167 must have feared a similar pattern here as they burst out of the blocks quickly only to lose their direction.
With Dundalk all over the shop at the outset, the Dubliners squandered an early chance to take the lead when Vojic - in for the suspended Aaron Greene - fluffed his lines.
Dundalk did go up the other end and hit the crossbar through Sean Hoare, but they were sluggish in the opening quarter. Their plans were upset at the last minute when John Mountney sustained an injury in the warm-up, with Daniel Kelly introduced.
The winter recruit from Bohemians was also prominent in their revival as they started to get the better of the key battles as half-time approached.
Rovers had switched Roberto Lopes to right back in an attempt to nullify Michael Duffy and he was reasonably successful.
However, Dundalk began to move the ball a little quicker to allow other players come to the fore. Sean Murray and Jamie McGrath became more prominent, while Kelly was a threat on the right side with his direct running setting up an intriguing battle with Hoops left full Trevor Clarke.
Rovers boss Bradley had taken Dylan Watts out of the equation to make room for Ronan Finn but his midfield lacked real control of proceedings.
Jack Byrne started as a narrow left winger but drifted infield as the half progressed.
Greg Bolger was solid as a shield but Rovers found themselves under pressure stepping out of defence and lacked real width when it came to opening up the game, save for when Clarke advanced forward from his station.
As the interval approached, Rovers were under the cosh. Kelly fizzed one effort wide after a set piece broke down before Hoban steered a Duffy cross over the bar. The natives needed the half-time whistle to regroup.
But the picture didn't improve dramatically and Bradley withdrew the unimpressive Vojic before the hour mark in an attempt to give Rovers a presence up front. The ball was coming back far too easily.
Carr made an impact and was involved in the build-up to a Rovers penalty shout when Ronan Finn's cross was blocked behind by Hoare. Rovers protested that he had used his arm.
At least they had generated a bit of momentum playing into the new South Stand which has become the base for the Rovers hardcore. The volume levels grew as they sensed opportunity, but visiting netminder Gary Rogers wasn't properly tested during this spell and it petered out.
Indeed, a game that has spilled over in recent years was surprisingly cordial as it ticked towards full-time.
Last year's player of the season Duffy kept trying to push open gaps for Dundalk, but there were a couple of hooped shirts tracking his every run. By the end, both parties seemed to have accepted the inevitability of the outcome and it was all relatively civil when Paul McLaughlin blew up. Expect more of a spark as the season progresses.
Shamrock Rovers – Mannus, Lopes, O'Brien, Grace, Clarke; Bolger, McEneff; Coustrain (B Kavanagh 82), Finn, Byrne (S Kavanagh 89); Vojic (Carr 57)
Dundalk – Rogers, Gannon, Gartland, Hoare, Massey; Shields; D Kelly, (Dummigan 89) Murray (McKee 81), McGrath, Duffy; Hoban (G Kelly 87)
Ref – P McLaughlin (Donegal)
Coming Soon: Independent.ie's new GAA newsletter. Sign up here