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McMillan's treble secures a silver lining for Dundalk

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The start of the 2020 season was ignited by a five-goal thriller in Tallaght which provided evidence that Shamrock Rovers were the new top dogs of the League of Ireland

The start of the 2020 season was ignited by a five-goal thriller in Tallaght which provided evidence that Shamrock Rovers were the new top dogs of the League of Ireland

The start of the 2020 season was ignited by a five-goal thriller in Tallaght which provided evidence that Shamrock Rovers were the new top dogs of the League of Ireland

The start of the 2020 season was ignited by a five-goal thriller in Tallaght which provided evidence that Shamrock Rovers were the new top dogs of the League of Ireland.

It ended with a six-goal spectacular in favour of Dundalk to serve as a reminder that they haven't gone away.

In doing so, they dashed Rovers double dreams and their hopes of going an entire campaign unbeaten.

The hero was Dave McMillan who bagged a hat-trick in a game he was only starting because of an injury to Patrick Hoban. He came to life as Dundalk appeared to be struggling towards defeat with the old guard finding another level with the finishing line in sight.

After a forgettable first-half, the league champions stepped things up a notch from the restart.

Substitue Lee Grace made his impact with the decisive flick-on that led to Aaron Greene's 51st minute breakthrough effort with Dundalk's zonal marking leaving the front man unguarded at the back post.

Rovers remained on top in the immediate aftermath yet as normal time entered its final third, Dundalk stepped things up a level.

They equalised as Rovers just let the intensity drop a bit and allowed Chris Shields to play the ball out and open up the pitch. He was involved twice in the move that culminated with a superb near-post finish from McMillan.

Rovers were shellshocked and the pain was enhanced instantaneously as Dundalk forced a corner and Rob Harvey adjudged that Daniel Cleary was fouled in the box and McMillan scored the penalty.

Dundalk's advantage was short lived as Rovers immediately levelled from another corner with Roberto Lopes soaring highest to convert.

It was a twist of fate that led to the lead goal in extra-time as an injury forced Brian Gartland off to be replaced by Rovers target Sean Hoare. The newcomer arrived for the second period to put his side ahead with the aid of a fortuitous deflection off Scales.

Dundalk were able to soak up the pressure and hit the Hoops on the break to wrap things up with McMillan completing his hat-trick three minutes from time.

Belfast Telegraph


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