Shamrock Rovers maintained their push for European qualification as they defeated Bray Wanderers 3-0 in their Airtricity League Premier Division clash at Tallaght Stadium.
The Hoops dominated the opening exchanges and took the lead through striker Mark Quigley in the 26th minute, before Karl Sheppard secured the victory with a well-taken strike early in the second half.
And Sheppard grabbed his second of the night as Trevor Croly’s side eased to victory, while bottom-placed Wanderers’ woes continue.
Rovers came into this encounter with Europe on their mind as they still had a chance of catching Derry to finish fourth in the league. Wanderers had their own battle to consider as they hoped to get something out of the game as they battle relegation.
But it was the Hoops who took control of the game from the opening minutes as the visitors struggled to get out of their own half.
Richie Ryan again looked composed and in charge in the middle of the park alongside Stephen Rice, while the lively Billy Dennehy was causing Wanderers all sorts of problems down the left flank, backed up well by Danny Ledwith.
Rovers almost took the lead in the fourth minute after Karl Sheppard got on the end of Ledwith’s whipping cross, but the downward header bounced the wrong side of the far post.
Ryan then tested Shane Redmond from distance in the 13th minute but it was straight at the Bray keeper.
The one-way traffic continued and the deadlock was broken in the 26th minute as Quigley tapped home from close range.
But it was effectively Dennehy’s goal as he ran in from the right flank to unleash a super effort on goal as Redmond spilled his save into Quigley’s path.
Bray eventually made inroads into Rovers territory in the 31st minute.
A cross from the right found Waters in space at the back post but Rovers keeper Richard Brush was quickly off his line to smother the shot.
But that was the extent of the Bray challenge with Waters the only shining light on the left flank as Pat Devlin’s side were second best throughout the park.
However, Rovers failed to capitalise on the possession with Rice, Sheppard, Ronan Finn and Jason McGuinness all spurning opportunities in front of goal.
And Bray almost grabbed an unlikely equaliser on the stroke of half-time as Rovers failed to clear their lines. Gary Dempsey worked hard to win back the ball and fed John Mulroy but Brush was again on hand to make a decent save.
The visitors, well aware of their lowly league position, came out after the break with much more positivity, the midfield supporting lone striker Akinade more effectively, while Waters continued to cause problems on the left flank.
Rovers were slow to get going but a moment of Mark Quigley ingenuity seven minutes into the second period sent Sheppard running through to double the advantage.
Quigley’s lofted pass was played right into the path of the Hoops striker, and Sheppard made no mistake blasting the ball home, giving Redmond no chance.
To their credit, Bray continued to battle after the second goal and continued to cause problems for Rovers as the much-improved Akinade twice went close to reducing the deficit.
Veteran striker Jason Byrne was sent into the fray for the final twenty minutes to join Akinade in attack.
But as Wanderers threw caution to the wind, there were inevitable gaps in defence and eventually Rovers utilised the space as Rice rolled Sheppard through four minutes from time and the on-loan Reading striker made no mistake, at the second time of asking.
The result, combined with Derry’s defeat to Dundalk, ensured that Rovers moved ahead of the Candystripes into fourth position but Wanderers quest for Premier League survival looks bleak.
Shamrock Rovers: Richard Brush; Conor McCormack, Ken Oman, Jason McGuinness, Daniel Ledwith; Ronan Finn, Stephen Rice (capt), Richie Ryan (Shane Robinson 89), Billy Dennehy (Sean O’Connor 62); Mark Quigley (Gary McCabe 70), Karl Sheppard.
Subs not used: Barry Murphy, Pat Sullivan, Derek Foran, Thomas Stewart.
Bray Wanderers: Shane Redmond; Shane O’Connor, Danny O’Connor (capt), Adam Mitchell, Conor Early (Kevin Knight 72); John Mulroy (Daire Doyle 81), Gary Dempsey (Jason Byrne 72), Dean Zambra, Kevin Maher, Kieran Waters; Ismahil Akinade.
Subs not used: Eoin Hyland, Ryan Coombes, Niall Cooney, Stephen McGuinness.
Referee: Derek Tomney.