By Rory Houston
Shamrock Rovers secured a second 4-1 victory in the space of three days as Michael O’Neill’s side cruised passed UCD at Tallaght Stadium.
Goals from Stephen Bradley and Billy Dennehy gave Rovers a half-time lead despite Ciaran Kilduff's deflected strike for College.
Brian Shorthall saw red for the Students early in the second period and Gary Twigg and Dan Murray sealed the win.
Rovers stay five points clear at the top of the Airtricity Premier Division table with nine games remaining.
The Hoops took the lead after five minutes when Bradley won the ball 30 yards from the College goal after slack play by Greg Bolger and goalkeeper Ger Barron.
With the goalkeeper off his line, the former Falkirk man looped the ball into the top corner of the net to give Rovers the perfect start.
UCD responded well as Paul O’Connor unleashed a stinging shot from 25 yards that Alan Mannus was forced to tip over on eight minutes.
Rovers looked dangerous on every attack with College struggling to cope with Paddy Kavanagh and Tommy Stewart in particular.
Twigg then forced Barron into a fine stop after Kavanagh’s trickery eluded O’Connor. The Scottish striker’s near-post shot was pushed passed the post by the UCD goalkeeper.
Twigg had another opportunity in the 19th minute when Dennehy’s low cross just eluded the striker with the goal gaping.
On 23 minutes James Chambers sent in a free-kick from the right that Aidan Price came close to connecting to as College breathed another sigh of relief.
The Students were being outmuscled by a confident home side that have the Premier Division title in their sights, but Rovers would soon be punished for not taking their chances.
Martin Russell’s side did look threatening on their rare breaks forward and stunned Tallaght Stadium with an equaliser on 26 minutes.
Keith Ward turned on halfway and played the ball up to Kilduff, with the striker beating Dan Murray with ease.
Kilduff’s shot deflected off Aidan Price, deceiving Mannus in the Shamrock goal and flying into the corner of the net.
Rovers has a great opportunity to regain the lead in the 34th minute when Chambers’ persistence in the midfield allowed him to pick out Stewart, but the ex-Derry City striker’s effort was just over the bar.
The end of the first half was very sloppy with both teams guilty of giving the ball away. A moment of class, or possible fluke, then changed the outlook of the game prior to half-time.
Stephen Bradley won the ball on the edge of the Rovers penalty area and offloaded to Dennehy.
With the UCD defenders backing off, Dennehy’s cross come shot from 30 yards out on the left wing sailed into the top corner of the net.
Neale Fenn was introduced in place of Paddy Kavanagh at half-time while Michael Leahy came on for Evan McMillan for the Students.
Kilduff was the first to threaten in the second period when his mazy run saw the striker beat two Rovers players but eventually the Hoops managed to clear.
UCD were reduced to 10-men shortly after when Shorthall went in high on Dennehy on the half-way line.
The referee immediately went to produce the red but he hesitated while both players lay injured on the floor. Dennehy and Shorthall eventually got to their feet and the UCD defender was given his marching orders.
The game went flat in the minutes after as College sent on Robert Creevy to try to steady the ship.
Rovers scored their third goal of the game in the 62nd minute as a superb cross by Dennehy close to the corner flag was headed home by Twigg from eight yards.
The home side had not been creating much prior to that but it only took a moment of magic from Dennehy and another fine finish by Twigg to end the game as a contest.
It was damage limitation for the Students now as the ever-lively Dennehy threatened again in 69th minute.
The winger intercepted Chris Mulhall’s cushioned header but with just the goalkeeper to beat, Dennehy sent the ball wide of the post.
Neale Fenn came close to scoring his first Rovers goal in the 76th minute as his header was pushed passed the post by a worried Barron.
From the resulting corner Rovers added a fourth goal as Murray converted a Dennehy cross with powerful header.
College almost got a goal back as Kilduff’s shot from the edge of the area went just off target in the 83rd minute.
Substitute Robert Bayly blazed over when well-placed in the 85th minute and then Twigg tried to chip Barron from 16 yards soon after as Rovers cruised through the final stages, cementing their position at the top of the table.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus, James Chambers, Dan Murray, Aidan Price, Enda Stevens, Paddy Kavanagh (Neale Fenn 45), Stephen Rice, Stephen Bradley (Robert Bayly 78), Billy Dennehy, Tommy Stewart (Pat Flynn 64), Gary Twigg.
UCD: Ger Barron, Brian Shorthall, Andy Boyle, Evan McMillan (Michael Leahy 45), David O’Connor, Karl Moore (Robert Creevy 54), Greg Bolger, Keith Ward, Paul O’Connor, Chris Mulhall, Ciaran Kilduff.