Goals from Roberto Lopes, Dylan Watts and Aaron Greene had this game won by half-time as Shamrock Rovers breezed past Finn Harps at Tallaght Stadium to go top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table ahead of Dublin rivals Bohemians on goal difference.
Understrength and far from happy at having to face a trip back to Dublin for the second successive Monday due to this fixture being brought forward from May, it just wasn’t destined to augur well for Finn Harps who finished the match with manager Ollie Horgan in the stand.
With five changes to the side that drew with champions Dundalk on Friday, Rovers quickly settled onto the front foot and were ahead from the first corner of the game on 11 minutes.
Sean Kavanagh worked it short with Jack Byrne before picking out Aaron McEneff on the edge of the area.
The midfielder’s low shot wasn’t gathered by ‘keeper Peter Burke, allowing Lopes to tap the loose ball over the line.
Burke did better 10 minutes later, racing off his line to save at the feet of Greene after Byrne’s sublime ball over the time played him through.
Watts, who had just landed a clever chip onto the roof of Burke’s net, then wasted a chance to double Rovers’ lead from a 26th minute penalty.
McEneff won the spot kick when clipped inside the area by Harps’ skipper Gareth Harkin. Watts blazed it carelessly over the crossbar.
But the Hoops’ number 7 made amends on 38 minutes to increase the dominant home side’s lead.
Harps’ debutant central defender Harry Ascroft miscontrolled Harkin’s pass in the middle of the park.
Dan Carr stole the ball, playing Watts through to drill a low shot beyond Burke.
The Harps keeper kept the score at 2-0 two minutes later, acrobatically stretching to his right to bat away another Watts drive that looked destined for the top corner.
The game was all but over in stoppage time at the end of the half.
Harps first had the injured Harkin taken off on a stretcher on 48 minutes.
Two minutes later, Greene powered onto Kavanagh’s ball down the left to confidently run on and crash a diagonal shot across Burke to the far corner of the net.
With the game effectively won, the second half was a slow burning affair.
Rovers should have added to their margin just past the hour mark.
Carr ended a surging run down the left by picking out Greene in the middle.
The striker’s blasted volley came down off the underside of the bar and out.
Harps’ woe in Dublin 24 was compounded on 69 minutes when boss Horgan was sent off for dissent.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sam Bone (Joey O’Brien 66), Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Sean Kavanagh; Greg Bolger; Jack Byrne (Arhan Vojic 66), Dylan Watts, Aaron McEneff (Brandon Kavanagh h-t), Dan Carr; Aaron Greene.
Finn Harps: Peter Burke; John Kavanagh, Harry Ascroft (Colm Deasy 69), Keith Cowan, Daniel O’Reilly; Jacob Borg, Gareth Harkin (Tony McNamee 48+3); Caolan McAleer, Nathan Boyle (Mark Russell 58), Niall McGinley; Mikey Place.
Referee: Ben Connolly (Dublin).