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Football | League of Ireland talking points

The SSE Airtricity League title race is starting to gathering pace.

There were wins for Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Bohs, Derry City, and Waterford in the latest round of fixtures.

Here are the main talking points from the weekend's matches.

Duffy heads Dundalk past Cork

Michael Duffy was the hero as Dundalk beat rivals Cork City 1-0 at Oriel Park.

Duffy headed his 50th professional goal past Mark McNulty to seal a crucial win for the league champions.

The winger was lively from the outset, forcing the Cork 'keeper into a sharp save in the seventh minute, and hit the side netting 10 minutes later with a left-footed effort.

Cork lost Colm Horgan to injury early on, with Garry Comerford coming off the bench to replace him.

Karl Sheppard hit the target with a rare shot for the Leesiders, but Gary Rogers was equal to it.

Kevin O'Connor also cleared the cross bar with a 33rd minute free kick, and Dundalk took the lead five minutes later.

Duffy rolled the ball to Jamie McGrath on the left, before making his way into the box.

McGrath did well to shift the ball past two Cork defenders and float in an inviting cross, which Duffy duly headed home for his second league goal of the season.

Caulfield then took substitute Comerford back off at half time, bringing Alan Bennett on in his stead.

McNulty reacted brilliantly to tip Hoban's header over the bar in the 53rd minute, but it was one of few chances in the second period.

Cork had plenty of possession but little penetration, and tried a more direct brand of football in the closing stages.

Duffy could have doubled his tally in stoppage time, but Dundalk were forced to settle for a 1-0 win.

The Louth club will move to within a point of Shamrock Rovers if they win their game in hand.

  Dundalk 1-0 Cork City: Michael Duffy breaks the deadlock with a brave header, nodding home from Jamie McGrath's cross. #rtesoccer — Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) March 29, 2019

Byrne steals the show

Jack Byrne starred again as Shamrock Rovers maintained their title tilt with a 3-1 win over UCD.

The 22-year-old midfielder scored once in each half as the Hoops made it seven wins from their opening nine games.

Byrne gave Rovers a first half lead after his low drive squeezed past Conor Kearns - who should have done better - in the 19th minute after he was picked out by Ronan Finn.

The students, who have won just one of their seven league matches this season, equalized seven minutes before the interval.

Rising star Neil Farrugia - who starred for the Republic of Ireland U21 side in their 3-0 demolition of Luxembourg - embarked on a brilliant run before teeing up Yousef Mahdy to draw the visitors level.

It was level at the break, and despite threatening, Rovers had to wait until the 83rd minute to get their second.

Finn was once again involved; his byline cross deflecting back into the path of the onrushing Byrne, who fired a low left-footed volley into the back of the net.

The former Manchester City starlet is in superb form for Stephen Bradley's side, and was included in Mick McCarthy's squad for last month's Euro 2020 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia.

Aaron McEneff put the game to bed in the 90th minute, passing the ball into an empty net after Rovers broke following a UCD corner, with 'keeper Kearns venturing forward in search of a late equalizer.

UCD remain second bottom on four points after the defeat, two points clear of Finn Harps.

Rovers, meanwhile, are seven points clear of second place Dundalk, who have two games in hand.

  Shamrock Rovers 3-1 UCD. Rovers maintain their seven point lead at the top of the table, but they had to dig deep to see off a stubborn UCD side at Tallaght Stadium. #rtesoccer — Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) March 29, 2019

Drinan double for Waterford

Aaron Drinan scored twice as Waterford thumped Finn Harps 4-0 on Friday.

Shane Duggan and Dean Walsh also found the net against the Ollie Horgan's visitors, who had Mark Coyle sent off in the 27th minute.

His dismissal for a second yellow following two rash tackles proved decisive, with Waterford then taking the upper hand after a subdued start.

Drinan headed Rory Feely's fine cross past Ciaran Gallagher to open the scoring five minutes before half time, and Alan Reynolds' hosts added three more in the second half.

In the 66th minute, Gallagher could only parry Duggan's low drive into the path of Drinan, who gratefully tapped the ball into an empty net to double his tally.

The goal was Drinan's fourth in the league, one more than any other player.

Seven minutes later, Duggan produced a superb high finish over Gallagher after a cut back from Scott Twine.

Dean Walsh sealed an emphatic victory with a 90th minute header into an empty net after Ismahil Akinade beat Gallagher and lofted a cross into the box.

The win lifts Waterford up to fifth in the table on 10 points, ahead of Cork City on goal difference.

Harps - who have now lost six games in a row - remain rooted to the bottom of the table on two points.

  Waterford 4-0 Finn Harps. Waterford made the most on an early Finn Harps red-card and turned on the style at the RSC to secure back-to-back victories for the first time this season. #rtesoccer — Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) March 29, 2019

Bohs inflict more misery on St. Pat's

Keith Buckley scored the winner as Bohemian FC beat St. Patrick's Athletic 1-0 in Phibsboro.

Buckley tucked home the only goal of the game three minutes before half time, converting the rebound in style after Brendan Clarke saved Kevin Devaney's initial shot.

To compound St. Pat's' misery, the visitors lost Brandon Miele to injury and Mikey Drennan to a red card for dissent in the 77th minute.

It was the Inchicore club who made the better start, but James Talbot made an excellent save to deny Rhys McCabe in the fifth minute.

Bohs almost took the lead in the 22nd minute, but Simon Madden provided fantastic cover to head Dinny Corcoran's goalbound effort clear with Clarke beaten.

The hosts asserted control over proceedings as the half wore on, and deservedly took the lead in the 42nd minute.

Lee Desmond could have drawn Harry Kenny's visitors level in the 50th minute, but the Pat's defender fired his effort from inside the box over the bar.

Talbot was equal to Forrester's 66th minute strike, and Drennan was shown a straight red card 11 minutes later.

Bohs held on to secure a much needed win, inflicting a third successive league defeat on St. Pat's.

Worryingly, Pat's have failed to score a single goal in those three losses.

Bohs, on the other hand, are now third on 14 points, just a single point and place behind Dundalk.

  Bohemians 1-0 St Patrick's Athletic. The Dublin derby bragging rights go to Bohs who continued their fine early season form. #rtesoccer — Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) March 29, 2019

Strong second half showing sees Derry beat Sligo

Second half goals from David Parkhouse and Ciaron Harkin earned Derry City a 2-0 win over Sligo Rovers at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium.

The Bit O'Red almost took a first half lead, but Candystripes 'keeper Nathan Gartside - starting in the place of injured Peter Cherrie - made an excellent save to tip Liam Kerrigan’s powerful drive over the bar. 

Eoghan Stokes hit the side netting for the hosts, with Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe also going close before the half time whistle.

Derry were much improved after the break, and Parkhouse opened the scoring with a well-taken low strike from just inside the box in the 59th minute.

Barry McNamee was at the heart of most things for Derry, and forced Mitchell Beeney into a good save after the break, with Stoke hitting the post from the rebound.

Sligo committed more men forward in search of an equalizer, but Derry doubled their lead late on.

Harkin picked the ball up on the right side of the Sligo box in the 90th minute, and drilled a brilliant effort past Beeney into the far corner to condemn Liam Buckley's visitors to defeat.

The win moves Derry up to fourth on 11 points, while Sligo linger in eighth place on seven points.

  Derry City 2-0 Sligo Rovers. Second-half strikes from David Parkhouse and Ciaron Harkin sealed Derry City’s comfortable win over Sligo Rovers. #rtesoccer — Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) March 29, 2019

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