Robbie Benson celebrates his goal with Michael Duffy. Picture: Ciaran Culligan
Dundalk got their title defence off to a winning start with a 2-1 victory over Shamrock Rovers in front of a bumper crowd of 4,746 at Oriel Park.
The champions were let off the hook by two former Dundalk players in the opening 15 minutes.
Darren Meenan steered an effort just wide of the upright after a mistake by Paddy Barrett and Gabriel Sava then saw a clearance cannon off Michael O’Connor and land in the net but it was harshly ruled out for offside.
The breakthrough came in the 32nd minute. Michael Duffy’s first cross was blocked by Simon Madden but the winger’s second attempt was tapped home from close range by Robbie Benson.
Dundalk took a firm grip on things seven minutes into the second half when
Former Lilywhites midfielder Ronan Finn was introduced to a mixed reception just short of the hour mark but it was another substitute, Graham Burke, who pulled Rovers back into it when his effort took a wicked deflection off Barrett to beat
That set it up for a grandstand final quarter of an hour but the Rovers striker was given his marching orders just four minutes later for a stupid lunge on Jamie McGrath.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, Rovers pushed for an equaliser and they almost got it with the final kick of the ball when David McAllister diverted a Brandon Miele free onto the bar.
DUNDALK FC: Gabriel Sava; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Paddy Barrett, Dane Massey; Robbie Benson, Stephen O’Donnell (Conor Clifford 67); John Mountney, Patrick McEleney (Niclas Vemmelund 84), Michael Duffy (Jamie McGrath 71); Ciaran Kilduff. Subs not used: Steven Kinsella, Carlton Ubaezuono, Thomas Stewart, Ben Kelly (GK).
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Tomer Chencinski; Simon Madden, David Webster, Daniel Devine, Trevor Clarke; Roberto Lopes (Graham Burke 69), Ryan Connolly (Ronan Finn 59); Darren Meenan, David McAllister, Brandon Miele; Michael O’Connor (Sean Boyd 61). Subs not used: Paul Corry, Sean Boyd, James Doona, Sean Heaney, Kevin Horgan (GK).
REFEREE: Neil Doyle.