Routine win puts Dundalk 10 points clear ahead of Dutch trip
Dundalk 2-0 Finn Harps
Published 13/09/2016 | 02:30
The result of this game never looked in doubt but Stephen Kenny could not relax until 15 minutes from the end.
Daryl Horgan's insurance strike confirmed that Dundalk would extend their lead at the top of the table to ten points, although they have played two games more than Cork City.
Three days out from their Europa League group stage opener with AZ Alkmaar, Kenny fielded a strong line-up in a one-sided affair.
Parts of this encounter were like a training exercise as a depleted Finn Harps side that haven't scored in the league since July 8 arrived in Louth with a set-up that screamed damage limitation.
They lost 7-0 in the last meeting between these sides so visiting manager Ollie Horgan knows what Dundalk can do.
He started with a five-man defence and a crowded midfield in an attempt to be stubborn but Patrick McEleney's long-range fifth-minute strike removed suspense.
AZ Alkmaar were not represented at this game; they earmarked last week's hard-fought win in Sligo as the scouting opportunity.
They would have found it hard to learn anything conclusive from this elaborate game of attackers v defenders.
Goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher was Harps' key man before the interval with a number of stops, and the loss of striker Ruairi Keating to injury was a grim start to the second half for the Donegal club.
The mood of the Harps bench darkened when Horgan was sent to the stands after Gallagher was booked for time-wasting. That was harsh, yet it gave an indication of the flow of the encounter.
Kenny did get to rest skipper Stephen O'Donnell but Ronan Finn was sprung from the bench in a search of a second and he was central to the creation of Horgan's close-range strike.
McEleney and Dave McMillan were quickly withdrawn as Dundalk coasted home in their first home league match since July 5; Shamrock Rovers and Derry will provide sterner tests next week.
Before then, they face a trip to Holland to rub shoulders with opponents from a different world.
Dundalk - Rogers, Gannon, Barrett, Boyle, Massey; Shields, Benson; Mountney (Finn 68), McEleney (Shiels 76), Horgan; McMillan (Kilduff 81).
Finn Harps - Gallagher, J Mailey, Cowan, P Mailey, McMonagle, Coll; Curran, McNamee (Coyle 76), Harkin, Funston (Banda 85) ; Keating (Scully 52).
Ref - N Doyle (Dublin)