Tipton's hat-trick humiliates Hoops
Shamrock Rvs 1
TO THINK that at 7.45 last night, this game was all about one man.
One hour and 45 rip-roaring minutes later and this encounter was about so much more. It was about Shamrock Rovers, seemingly cantering towards a first league title since 1994, relinquishing a 17-match unbeaten run in the league in a fashion that can only be described as humiliating.
It was about Bohemians on the same night picking up three points that puts them within just four of their fierce Dublin rivals.
It was about the Premier Division title race being blown wide open once more.
And oh yes, that guy Neale Fenn didn't have much of a game either.
Michael O'Neill certainly showed in his team selection that he doesn't fear any venue in the country, throwing Fenn in to the starting XI, knowing that he would be subjected to fierce abuse after an acrimonious departure from Oriel Park.
Pity, though, that O'Neill's side couldn't follow his lead. The hosts came out with all guns blazing from the start, bullying their more illustrious counterparts when out of possession, while showing a dazzling array of skill and aptitude when on the ball that left the purple-clad Rovers in the shade.
The first goal came after just three minutes when the superb Ross Gaynor whipped a delightful inswinging free-kick that found Tom Miller all alone at the back post.
The former Rangers man glanced it low to Alan Mannus' right-hand side but just as the Northern Ireland 'keeper looked to have dealt with it, he allowed it to squirm under his body and roll in for an unlikely opener.
The unlikely soon turned to the unbelievable, however, as Fahrudin Kuduzovic trapped Dean Bennett's low, drilled cross beautifully before slamming a second past Mannus on 17 minutes.
It wasn't like the Lilywhites didn't deserve it. They were all over the Dubliners and may well have had a penalty just before they doubled their lead. The Louth venue became a cauldron and the visitors just couldn't deal with it. There were errors everywhere and Ian Foster's men were taking full advantage.
Ten minutes later, Kuduzovic skipped past the ineffective Pat Flynn with ease before breaking into the box and sending over a ball that Wayne Hatswell headed towards goal before Matthew Tipton steered it into the net.
Tipton got a second just before the interval when one of Fenn's many errors led to Gaynor setting the Welshman free and he fired a rocket into the top of Mannus' net.
A bizarre blunder from Peter Cherrie handed Gary Twigg the easiest goal he will ever score right on the hour mark but that was the only bit of luck Rovers would get all night.
Cherrie made amends later with two superlative saves and Tipton completed his hat-trick with a delicate finish three minutes from the end to round off a win that is just as important for Dundalk's battle against relegation as it is for the title race.
DUNDALK -- Cherrie, Madden, Breen, Burns, Hatswell; Kearns (Kelly 82), Bennett, Miller, Gaynor; Kuduzovic, Tipton (Lennon 88).
SHAMROCK ROVERS -- Mannus, Flynn (Flynn 46), Sives, Price, Murphy; Dennehy, Rice, Bradley (Turner 46), Kavanagh; Fenn (Stewart 60), Twigg.
REF -- T Connolly (Dublin).