FOUR first-half goals from Ciarán O'Connor helped Dundalk Youths to a hugely-impressive 6-0 win over third-placed Malahide United in the DDSL U18 Super League at Gannon Park on Sunday afternoon, with Kevin Nolan and captain Ryan Duffy adding two more after the break to make it three league wins on the spin.
Alan Browne's side, who have fallen well short in their title defence this season, went into the game in confident mood after progressing to a third straight Ferrari Cup final last weekend.
And, as they still eye a possible top-half finish, they quickly set about their task here and were in front on five minutes.
Cillian Mulligan and Stephen McQuillan linked up, with the latter supplying a well-weighted pass for O'Connor who chipped the 'keeper from inside the box.
Before the half-hour, Dundalk doubled their lead when O'Connor was brought down in the area and the young forward picked himself up to tuck away the spot-kick.
Duffy and O'Connor then linked up well before another cool finish saw him seal his hat-trick, and he made it 4-0 before half-time when he took on the centre-half and rounded the 'keeper to roll the ball in.
Malahide went into the game still harbouring outside hopes of challenging for the title, but they were humiliated here by a slick Dundalk side.
Dundalk went on to add further gloss to the scoreline after the break, with a cross from the left by Duffy finding O'Connor who turned provider for Nolan to fire in the fifth.
And the rout was completed when McQuillan did well in the middle and fed Duffy whose superb effort found the net.
Dundalk now move up to 16 points from 13 games and have three outings remaining, against Ballybrack Boys (home), Shamrock Rovers and Saint Kevin's Boys (both away).
Dundalk: Ruairí McDaid, Manny Kaguako (Glen Garbutt 55), Paul Finnegan, Cillian Mulligan, Roy Kierans, Jude Carroll, Kevin Nolan, Stephen McQuillan, Scott Craven (Barry Davies 55), Ryan Duffy (Conor McGill 65), Ciarán O'Connor (Gavin Gaffey 60).