League Report: Shamrock Rovers 5 – 0 Drogheda United

Johnny Kenny scored his fifth of the season but his first since April on Sunday evening

Johnny Kenny scored his fifth of the season but his first since April on Sunday evening Credit: Peter Fitzpatrick (ETPhotos)

Rónán MacNamara reports from Tallaght Stadium

Shamrock Rovers moved ominously close to their fourth successive Premier Division title with a five-star showing against Drogheda United – win their next match and they will be champions.

Rovers were out of sight at half time after Trevor Clarke, Richie Towell and Johnny Kenny all found the net before quickfire strikes from Neil Farrugia and Markus Poom after the restart put some gloss on the scoreline as the Hoops hammered home their advantage.

Rovers made four changes from their last match which took place last month. Stephen Bradley brought back in Trevor Clarke and Neil Farrugia at wing-back in place of Sean Kavanagh and club captain Ronan Finn. Richie Towell was drafted in for Liam Burt and Johnny Kenny replaced the suspended Graham Burke.

The visitors made two changes from their hard-fought goalless draw at home to Derry City with Jamie Egan coming in for the suspended Conor Keeley while Luke Wade Slater came in for his first start of the season replacing Darragh Markey.

Drogheda arrived without several key players and their raucous supporters who were banned after an incident in Oriel Park recently and this teed up the hosts to take a big step towards their fourth successive league crown and the game turned into a procession.

The recalled Farrugia and Clarke combined to give the Hoops the lead after just six minutes. Farrugia’s cross found the feet of Clarke – via the head of Rory Gaffney – and he finished brilliantly across Andrew Wogan.

Rovers had struggled to break down the Boynesiders this season – and were without a win over United in six league encounters - but were carving through them at every opportunity and doubled their lead in the 15th minute when Dan Cleary crossed unchallenged for Gaffney who cleverly nodded the ball for Richie Towell to tap home.

Towell might have helped himself to a first half hat trick on another night but after shooting narrowly wide from inside the area, he was then denied by Shane O’Brien’s offside flag after a neat finish.

It took the Drogs 25 minutes to have a shot in anger at Alan Mannus’ goal but Kyle Robinson – known for the spectacular – fired high and wide.

The game was in danger of becoming a rout when Johnny Kenny met a Farrugia cross with a neat touch and emphatic finish into the top corner for his first goal since April before the half hour mark.

A rare Drogheda attack before the interval should have seen Luke Wade Slater find the net before a combination of the post and a point-blank Andrew Wogan save denied Rovers a fourth.

Referee Rob Harvey didn’t bother with first half injury time – it was that kind of game – and took Drogheda out of their misery by blasting the half time whistle.

The returning Farrugia was a class above the rest and he hammered home a fourth for his fourth of the season just two minutes after the restart before some fantastic trickery on the end line from Gaffney teed up Poom to nod home a fifth.

Rovers showed no signs of taking their foot off the gas and Kenny and Farrugia both went close from outside the area.

The four-in-a-row chasers finished the last 20 with ten men after Clarke was forced off with a head injury having already made their allocated substitutions.

Farrugia had a late goal ruled out for a handball after a mazing run through the Drogheda defence saw the ball ricochet onto his arm.

If Rovers win in Inchicore next Friday, they will be champions yet again.

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus, Dan Cleary (Sean Hoare 61), Pico Lopes, Lee Grace, Neil Farrugia, Gary O’Neill (Darragh Nugent 46), Markus Poom (Liam Burt 61), Trevor Clarke, Richie Towell (Naj Razi 46), Johnny Kenny, Rory Gaffney (Simon Power 61)

Drogheda United: Andrew Wogan, Luke Heeney (Topcu 57), Jamie Egan (Noone 46), Evan Weir, Conor Kane, Gary Deegan, Matthew O’Brien, Adam Foley, Luke Wade Slater (McNally 46), Warren Davis (Warren 86), Kyle Robinson (Jones)

Attendance: 4,672

Referee: Rob Harvey

extratime.com Player of the Match: Neil Farrugia (Shamrock Rovers)