By Killian McHale

Shamrock Rovers reached the mid-season break in fine form, defeating UCD AFC in Tallaght on Friday night with a dominant four-goal display.

An own-goal, along with strikes from Jack Byrne, Graham Burke, and a first-ever senior goal for Kieran Cruise saw the Hoops head into the break with a six-point lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League Men’s Premier Division.

Stephen Bradley made a host of changes following Monday night’s victory in the North-West against Sligo Rovers, with Sean Hoare, Sean Kavanagh, Graham Burke & Aaron Greene all coming into the starting-eleven for the clash against the Students.

Rovers took control of the game from the get-go, with the visitors sitting deep in their own half looking to soak up the Hoops’ pressure. The first shot of the game fell to Neil Farrugia after 9 minutes, when the wing-back turned inside before forcing Kian Moore in the UCD goal into an early save.

The opening goal came on the quarter-hour mark, when a dangerous Farrugia cross from the Rovers right was poked goalwards by Aaron Greene, before deflecting off the
unfortunate Harvey O’Brien inside the UCD penalty area to give the Hoops the break-through.

With 25 minutes on the clock, Stephen Bradley’s side found some breathing space when Jack Byrne made it two-nil. An inch-perfect through-ball by Sean Kavanagh down the left-wing found Graham Burke, who fired a low ball across the UCD goal which had the UCD defence scrambling, before Jack Byrne tapped home from close-range to extend the Hoops’ lead.

Rovers maintained control of the game, holding onto the ball for the majority of the half forcing the Students to work hard off the ball. And as we grew closer to half-time, the
Students energy dropped as Rovers nipped in to grab a third with 42 minutes gone on the clock.

Again, Farrugia causing trouble down the Rovers right, before finding Graham Burke with a low pass as Burke bundled home to give Rovers a three-goal cushion at the break.
Stephen Bradley opted for a triple-change at half-time, giving much-needed and deserved minutes into the legs of Conan Noonan, Darragh Nugent & Kieran Cruise.

And with ten minutes on the clock in the second-half, it was the latter of our half-time substitution trio who extended the Hoops lead further. A Graham Burke free-kick from 25-yards was deflected by the UCD wall, falling to the feet of the 19-year-old who fired home under the legs of Moore as the youngster celebrated in style in-front of the South Stand.

His first senior goal for the Club coming a week after his senior home debut. Any real chances were few and far between after the fourth goal, with Rovers having to wait
until the 75 th minute before having their next change through substitute Rory Gaffney. Gary O’Neill rolled a free-kick back to Gaffney from 25-yards, who flicked the ball up before volleying narrowly over the UCD goal.

In the final action of the game, it was almost five-nil, when Cruise’s header from Conan Noonan’s corner-kick was saved brilliantly by Kian Moore in the UCD goal to deny the
teenager a brace on the night. A comfortable night’s work for Stephen Bradley’s side who sit at the top of the Premier Division table with 42 points after 21 games going into the mid-season break. Rovers return to action after the break in a fortnight’s time, travelling across the capital to take on Bohemian FC in Dalymount Park on Friday 23 rd June in a 7:45pm kick-off.

Shamrock Rovers: Pohls; Hoare, Lopes © (46’ Cruise), Grace; Farrugia, O’Neill, Poom (46’
Nugent), Kavanagh; Byrne (46’ Noonan), Burke (61’ Burt), Greene (35’ Gaffney).
Shamrock Rovers unused substitutes: Leitis (GK), Gannon, Watts, Finn.

UCD: Moore; Babb, O’Brien (78’ Bowden), Keaney ©, Osam; Gallagher, Wells, Nolan, Barr
(87’ Donoghue), Norris (57’ Kinsella Bishop); Doyle.
UCD unused substitutes: Healy (GK), Keane.

Attendance: 5,782.