Date: 28 February, 2020
Competition: League of Ireland Premier Division
Result: Shamrock Rovers 3 (Dylan Watts, ’20; Roberto Lopes, ’71; Jack Byrne, 83′) – Dundalk 2 (Jordan Flores, 22′; Patrick Hoban, 63′)
Tickets: €15 (adult), €5 (child).
Attendance: 7,522 (close to capacity).
The game: Wow. You expect a good contest out of the league’s top two clubs, but this was something else. Two attack-minded clubs just going at each other for 90 minutes, with some real quality on show. Rovers were the better team early on, and took the lead after a period of consistent attack. They lost their way a bit soon afterwards, and Dundalk were on top when Jordan Flores scored an absolutely incredible goal on the volley from a corner. A powerful, head-height hit that absolutely flew, and definitely one of the best goals I’ve ever seen live. Grab a look here – it’s being talked about as a Puskas contender.
There was a real stunned sense around the ground after that for a little while, but the game took off again as it went on. When Dundalk led they probably just about deserved it, but then Rovers took charge and scored from a header, and then a swinging finish from 25 yards by Jack Byrne. Dundalk closed out the game with a flurry of corners and Rovers hung on. An absolute classic, and a nice prelude to what’s looking like it could be an excellent title race between these two.
The ground: This is probably the best stadium in the League of Ireland, though it is also probably one of the least quirky, being a fairly basic set up in terms of modern mid-sized stadia. It has decent-height stands on two sides and one end, and the empty north side, currently essentially a wall 20 metres behind one goal, is awaiting development. There are good views from everywhere, pretty much (I’ve been to Tallaght at least a dozen times). The South Stand, behind one goal, seems to hold the most passionate fans, and the away lot are stuck in the northeast corner.
Extras: Rovers have a full-on shop filled with shirts, scarves, accessories and giant green sponge fingers (don’t laugh, my kid loves his). The programme is pretty decent, and there’s a cartoon superhero, ‘Hooperman’, who strolls around the pitchside during the game. Several concession stands at the end of each stand, a touch overpriced but not outrageous. The coffee and snacks are cash only.
Assorted asides: I’m a big fan of Shamrock Rovers’ ultras, now occupying the South Stand. I mean quite a few of their songs are a bit lame, but they bring an atmosphere lacking at a lot of League of Ireland grounds, so bring on the green flares and banners as far as I’m concerned. This game had an unusually strong away following, too, and one of the best overall attendances in the League of Ireland in years. Boisterously brilliant.
My totals for the year so far:
Games: 2. Home wins: 1. Draws: 1.
Goals: 7. Home goals: 4. Away goals: 3. Goals per game: 3.5
A few pics: