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Football | League of Ireland talking points

"Goal of the century" Didi Hamann says it's the goal of the century, and the best he's ever seen. Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers treated League of Ireland fans to a thrilling top of the table clash on Friday night (more on that below), and produced one of the greatest goals scored on Irish soil. Take a bow Jordan Flores. If you thought his goal against Cork City last week was good, wait until you see this. The Dundalk midfielder has gone viral after scoring a stunning volley in the five-goal thriller at Tallaght Stadium, a goal which the FIFA Twitter account has already earmarked as a contender for the Puskas Award. At the time of writing, the goal has just shy of five million views on the RTÉ Soccer Twitter page.

"Oh, that is unreal, that's one of the best goals I’ve seen." - Paul Merson With Dundalk trailing 1-0 to the Hoops at Tallaght Stadium, Flores restored parity in the most outrageous way imaginable just two minutes after Stephen Bradley's hosts took the lead. The Englishman met Michael Duffy's corner with an unstoppable left-footed volley from just outside the 18-yard box. His technique was impeccable, getting his left foot impossibly high above his head to smash the ball perfectly into the top corner. Alan Mannus never had a chance. Words won't do it justice, so just watch it for yourself. On repeat. Just hand out the goal of the season award now.
Shamrock Rovers 1-1 Dundalk - Wow! Jordan Flores scores a goal of the season contender to level things at Tallaght. You'll be watching this goal for years to come. #rtesocer — RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) February 28, 2020

The perfect advert for Irish football Expectations were high for the clash between the two best teams in the country, and Shamrock Rovers v Dundalk certainly didn't disappoint. It was the rivals' first meeting since Rovers' victory in the FAI Cup final in November, and both sides were looking to lay down an early season marker, with both clubs entering the match on the back of three wins from their opening three Premier Division matches. Five goals, including that unforgettable Flores strike, and plenty of entertaining football and drama made for an excellent clash between the title rivals in Dublin. Dylan Watts gave the Hoops the lead in the 20th minute. Hoops skipper - and former Dundalk midfielder - Ronan Finn escaped down the right flank and sent in a low cross. Watts' initial effort was blocked by Dane Massey, but a kind rebound allowed the Rovers winger to smash home at the second attempt from eight yards. Flores' aforementioned wonder strike drew the Lilywhites level within two minutes in front of the crowd of 7,522, a record crowd for a league match at Tallaght Stadium. Vinny Perth's visitors nearly took the lead 10 minutes later, but Lee Grace produced a vital goal-line block to deny Cammy Smith. Mannus then diverted Duffy's free kick over the bar, before Jack Byrne drove a free over the bar at the other end. Stephen Bradley's hosts put Dundalk under plenty of pressure in the opening stages of the second half, but it was the away side who grabbed the games third goal. In the 63rd minute, Daniel Kelly played Patrick Hoban through on goal. The Lilywhites striker kept a cool head to nonchalantly dink the ball over the onrushing Mannus. Dundalk's lead, however, lasted just eight minutes. Roberto Lopes met Jack Byrne's corner with a good header past Gary Rogers, drawing Rovers level in the 71st minute. The influential Byrne curled a sighter wide before winning the game for the Hoops in the 83rd minute. Picking the ball up 25 yards from goal, the Ireland midfielder twisted and turned cleverly to engineer some space on the edge of the box. Byrne then produced a delightful left-footed curling finish into the bottom corner to seal all three points for Rovers. The Tallaght club lead the chasing pack by three points after four games. There's a long, long way to go, but Rovers have struck the first blow in what promises to be an intriguing title race in 2020.

Cork claim first win Cork City picked up their first points of the 2020 Premier Division season with a 1-0 win over Finn Harps at Turner's Cross. The Leesiders have endured a miserable start to the campaign, suffering a 1-0 home defeat to newly promoted Shelbourne before shipping six goals against league leaders Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght, and losing 3-0 to Dundalk at Oriel Park. Their record ahead of Friday's clash with Harps stood at three defeats in three matches, with zero goals scored and 10 conceded. The win against Ollie Horgan's Harps, then, was a much needed one. Alec Byrne scored the only goal of the game, which was Cork's first league goal of the season. In fact, it took until well into the first half for Cork to register their first home shot of the campaign, with Dylan McGlade testing Harps 'keeper Mark McFGinley with a free kick from distance. Harps thought they had taken the lead just before half time when Alex Kogler pounced to find the net after Liam Bossin fumbled Ruairi Harkin’s free kick. However, the goal was ruled out for an adjudged foul by Kogler on the Cork goalkeeper, with Cork eventually awarded a free out. The Leesiders broke the deadlock 10 minutes into the second half. McGlade's corner found Byrne in the box, and the midfielder headed home a powerful effort, much to the delight of the home crowd. Daire O’Connor then had a goal ruled out for offside as Fenn's men pushed for a second. Kogler almost drew the visitors from Donegal level, but Ronan Hurley's goal-line clearance ensured all three points remained with the hosts.

The Rebels claim their first win of the season and climb off the bottom of the table with a big win over Finn Harps. #rtesoccer — Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) February 28, 2020

Derry down Bohs to kickstart season Derry City sealed an impressive 2-0 win over Bohemian FC at Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium. After a scoreless first half, Jack Malone and substitute Walter Figueira notched the goals as the Candystripes picked up their first league win of the season. Bohs came closest to taking the lead before Derry's eventual breakthrough, with Keith Ward seeing his chipped effort cleared off the line superbly by centre back Danny Lupano. Man of the match Mallon opened the scoring with an excellent strike, slaloming into the box before hammering the ball into the top of the net past Bohs 'keeper Stephen McGuinness. Figueira, who came on to replace the injured Ally Gilchrist, put the game beyond doubt in the 90th minute. The defender lifted the ball over McGuinness after being picked out by fellow substitute Adam Liddle, condemning Bohs to their second defeat in four matches.

Derry City 2-0 Bohemians - The Candystripes are up and running for the season after an impressive victory at home to Bohemians. #rtesoccer — Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) February 28, 2020
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