Shamrock Rovers got back to winning ways in spectacular fashion as they dismantled Bray Wanderers 5-0 at Tallaght Stadium on Saturday night.
Graham Burke scored in either half, while Sam Bone, Dan Carr and Dave McAllister also scored in a game moved back 24 hours to accommodate the women’s international against Norway.
The Hoops led from the fourth minute after the one-time Rovers captain Conor Kenna was dismissed for a desperate and, in its own way stunning, handball on the line.
The veteran defender denied 17-year-old playmaker Brandon Kavanagh a dream first goal for the club on the occasion of his first league start.
There’s not likely to be many more impressive saves at the World Cup this summer as Kenna showed remarkable reflexes to punch the ball over the bar, Gordon Banks-style.
Referee Anthony Buttimer wasn’t so taken with the acrobatic performance, however, and issued a straight red card, and Burke coolly slotted home the penalty.
Bray had goalkeeper Evan Moran to thank for them taking it to half time just one goal in arrears, as he made top-class stops from Burke, Carr and Kavanagh.
The dam burst after the break, however, Bone lashing home from the edge of the box before Kavanagh teed up Burke for the easiest of finishes for his 12th of the season.
Carr tapped into an empty net after he was picked out by substitute Sean Boyd, on his return form injury, before Dave McAllister scored the pick of the bunch with a pile-driver from 30 yards.
“We started bright, got a penalty and we knew they’d sit in,” manager Stephen Bradley told the Dublin Gazette.
“We just had to keep moving them, wear them down and we thought if we did that, second half they’d open up.
“And that was the case. We dominated the ball but I think if we don’t do that in the first half we don’t open them up like we did in the second. They got tired.
“When they go down to ten men, you just need to keep moving them because you know eventually it takes its toll.”
Bradley reserved special comment for the two teenage debutants, Brandon Kavanagh and 16-year-old Firhouse native Gavin Bazunu, who had a quiet night in goal on his first senior start.
“He has really good ability, Brandon, he just needs to keep his head down, keep working hard and learn from the players around him. If he does that, he’ll be a top player.
On Bazunu: “At 16, especially goalkeepers, you don’t want to throw them in that early but sometimes you just can’t hold them back. Sometimes they’re ready and he’s ready.”
On the subject of Burke, Bradley insisted the striker is no closer to his Tallaght exit, despite media reports suggesting Preston North End were close to sealing a €300,000 deal.
“Graham is here. There’s a lot of interest, but unless the deal is right for everyone, Graham is a Shamrock Rovers player.
“There’s a lot of offers, a lot of talk, but nothing done. It has to be fair. Graham has 18 months on his contract and we’re more than happy with where we are with him.”