A brace of first half penalties from Richie Towell has considerably loosened holders Shamrock Rovers’ grip on their Setanta Sports Cup trophy as Dundalk left Tallaght Stadium full value for this semi-final, first leg victory.
Showing no signs of their quick turnaround from playing in Sligo on Saturday night. Dundalk started much the better, taking a deserved lead on 11 minutes.
That came from Towell’s first emphatically dispatched penalty after Rovers’ keeper Craig Hyland was fortunate only to receive a yellow card for taking down John Mountney who had run clean through onto skipper Stephen O’Donnell’s sublime ball.
Passing the ball far better against the surprisingly disjointed league leaders, Dundalk doubled their advantage from a second spot kick on 33 minutes.
Chris Shields fed Mountney on the right and he was tripped by Rovers’ captain Conor Kenna. Towell once again scored confidently from 12 yards.
Rovers brought Ronan Finn into their midfield at the interval, but it was Dundalk schemer Towell who carved the first opening of the second half on the hour mark. Hyland was promptly off his line to save at the feet of David McMillan.
The visitors continued to be the more dangerous side with substitutes Ruaidhri Higgins and Patrick Hoban combining well on 73 minutes - the latter somehow side-footing wide when he might have all but put the tie to bed.
Eamon Zayed kept it alive for the return at Oriel Park on April 15, though, when pulling a goal back for Rovers on 84 minutes.
Gary McCabe showed good feet on the left to put over a low cross which Zayed poked to the roof of the net.
Shamrock Rovers: Craig Hyland; Simon Madden, Robert Cornwall, Conor Kenna, Luke Byrne; Dean Kelly (Ronan Finn h/t), Shane Robinson (Ryan Brennan 83), Robert Bayly, Sean O’Connor; Karl Sheppard (Gary McCabe 58), Eamon Zayed.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey; Chris Shields; John Mountney (Darren Meenan 80), Richie Towell, Stephen O’Donnell (Ruaidhri Higgins 52), Kurtis Byrne; David McMillan (Patrick Hoban 67).
Referee: Paul Tuite (Dubin).