It's a wrap by half-time as Dundalk close in on Aviva
A DEVASTATING Dundalk performance blitzed Shelbourne at Tolka Park on Friday night as Stephen Kenny's high-fliers set up an FAI Cup semi-final showdown with Drogheda for a piece in the Aviva Stadium decider.
Richie Towell scored twice and Patrick Hoban and Andy Boyle also hit the target, before a simply sublime strike from Kurtis Byrne wrapped up what was an all too easy victory for the Double-chasers.
Dundalk were looking to reach their second successive FAI Cup semi-final and continue their bid for a first knockout crown in 11 years - and both objectives were duly achieved by half-time.
Brian Gartland returned to the Lilywhites starting XI following illness, while John Sullivan, Byrne and John Dillon also came into the side. Dane Massey, Stephen O'Donnell, John Mountney and Tiarnan Mulvenna all made way from the team which was victorious against Drogheda United.
A mis-cued effort from Towell after five minutes was the best either side could muster in a scrappy opening to the contest, before he then went much closer when latching on to a Hoban flick to scoop a lob just over the top.
When Dundalk hit their rhythm there was no halting them and after 13 minutes it was that man Towell involved again. This time he got the end product desired when he exchanged passes with Dillon inside the area and collected the return before curling into the far corner past a despairing Niall Burdon who got a hand on the ball but could not keep it out.
Burdon then did brilliantly to tip over a vicious Darren Meenan strike from 25 yards after the winger was allowed to advance unchallenged into Shelbourne territory, but the keeper was beaten again on 19 minutes with a goal very similar to one the Lilywhites had scored on their last visit to Tolka Park this year on league duty.
Meenan swung in a corner from the right and it was met by an emphatic header from Boyle as he came back to haunt his side for the second time this season, the ball skimming in off the underside of the crossbar.
However, the home side did have their chances after going behind in the immediate aftermath of Boyle's goal as Dean Kelly did well to rise between the central defenders to power a header at goal which Peter Cherrie saved.
He then missed a golden chance as Lee Murtagh fed him the ball inside the box and, with the Dundalk defence slow to react to the space Kelly found himself in, he somehow scuffed his effort high over the top with the goal gaping.
Hoban then blasted over at the other end after being afforded too much time on the edge of the box, before Chris Shields did likewise with an ambitious volley from a Mark Rossiter throw as Dundalk continued to look the more likely to increase their lead than Shels to reduce it.
Sure enough, after the half-hour mark they did just that when Towell tore down the centre of the park through the middle of the hosts' defence, and when Burdon came to meet him he laid off cutely into the path of Hoban who tapped home for an all too easy finish.
Burdon was called into action again shortly afterwards to stop another scorching Meenan strike from outside the area as the Lilywhites refused to ease up at all in their continued search for goals.
They would keep on coming before the half-time whistle was blown, with a fourth being added through Byrne with a potential winner of the goal of the season award as he collected just inside the Shels half and looked up before flighting a glorious strike over the head of a despairing Burdon.
A minute before the whistle was blown, another goal was put on the scoreboard when Sullivan got forward on the right and put a superb cross into the box that was begging to be headed and it duly was thanks to Towell who diverted it into the corner of the net.
Hoban fired in the first effort of the second half with a bicycle kick attempt from outside the box as the Lilywhite striker looked to perhaps outdo the fantastic goal from Byrne in the opening 45.
Shelbourne did manage to pull one back when Murtagh then found space behind their defence, although he did appear to be offside, and kept a cool head to fire past Cherrie.
After that goal, the game hit something of a lull for the first time as Dundalk comfortably sat on the lead that they had worked so hard to build in the first half.
Shields had to be perfectly positioned to deny Sean Brennan with a goal-line clearance, before Cherrie rose to tip over a dipping Darren Tinnelly effort.
Vinny Faherty then flashed a header wide of the target at the other end as the Lilywhites saw the game out easily and attentions began to turn to their massive top-of-the-table league clash with St Patrick's Athletic in Inchicore on Friday.