Shamrock Rovers 2 Shelbourne 0
Their week started with an unexpected blip away to Drogheda United but normal service has resumed for Shamrock Rovers, who strolled their way through the 'Ringsend derby' with a 2-0 win to take an eight-point lead into the mid-season break.
The Hoops had to dig deep and grind it out when they first clashed with Damien's Duff Reds this season, a narrow 2-1 win last month, but they had this game in their grip as early as the second minute and Duff, in his first game back at Tallaght since he left Rovers, could only look on in frustration as his former club bossed the game against his current employers.
Shels had looked like a tight unit in their recent four-game winning run but they were far too open in allowing Rovers score twice in the first half. The game wasn't even two minutes old when Rovers went in front. A nice move down the left started by Graham Burke resulted in a cross into the box by Rory Gaffney and, as the Shels defence were caught out by Dylan Watts' dummy, Richie Towell was left free to score his first of the season.
After a lull in the game, Rovers went 2-0 up on 31 minutes when a turn and shot from the edge of the box by Rory Gaffney and his strike went under the body of keeper Brendan Clarke and into the net.
Rovers keeper Alan Mannus was having one of the quietest nights of his Hoops career until Shels managed to pose some threats late in the first half, Roberto Lopes clearing as Jad Hakiki was in a dangerous position and then a tame Sean Boyd header was too weak to worry Mannus.
Quick starters in the first half, Rovers did the same in the second period and had two chances in the first minute as Brendan Clarke saved point-blank from Gaffney and then Aaron O'Driscoll blocked Watts' follow up.
Reds men like Jack Moylan and JJ Lunney had been so impressive in their recent run but Rovers simply ran the show in midfield and Moylan was called ashore after an hour but subs John Ross Wilson, Kameron Ledwidge and Gavin Molloy were facing a mission impossible in terms of rescuing something from a game which was, in effect, over after half an hour.
Rovers, with key men Danny Mandroiu and Jack Byrne not in the matchday squad through injury, saw out the remaining minutes with ease. There was more good news for the Hoops as title rivals Derry City dropped points again, leaving Dundalk as their closest challengers.
ROVERS – Mannus; Hoare, Lopes, Kavanagh; Finn (Farruiga 79), O’Neill, Watts (McCann, 79), Towell, Lyons (Grace 79); Burke; Gaffney (Greene 79).
SHELS – Clarke; Farrell, O’Driscoll, Byrne, Griffin, Kane; Lunney, Dervin Molloy 66),Hakiki (Ledwidge 58); Boyd, Moylan (Wilson 58).
REF – R Hennessy