Towell stars as Dundalk stay on top
Dundalk 3 Galway Utd 0
This was a poor contest for the first 45 minutes and no contest for the next 45 as a quick-fire Richie Towell hat-trick after the break set Dundalk on their way to a facile victory.
The champions had struggled to make any impression on Galway United before the interval, but they resumed with real purpose to retain their place at the top of the table ahead of Friday's crucial trip to face second-placed Cork in Turner's Cross.
Galway will feel that the match officials helped the Dundalk cause as the breakthrough came courtesy of a controversial penalty when Kevin Garcia was adjudged to have clipped the heels of Dave McMillan as he sprinted into the box.
Paul McLaughlin waved away protests and Towell stepped up calmly to dispatch the spot-kick.
It was clear, however, that Dundalk had been urged to raise the intensity levels and they didn't give Tommy Dunne's side a chance to recover from that blow. Soon after, a trademark raid from right-full Sean Gannon paved the way for a clever Towell finish to put the result beyond doubt inside five minutes of the second half.
He added his third before the hour-mark with a superbly-executed right-footer from 20 yards that gave Ger Hanley absolutely no chance.
After putting their supporters through a rollercoaster of emotions in a thrilling 2-2 draw in Tallaght on Friday, Dundalk had been unable to give a substantial home attendance much cause for excitement prior to that.
They are used to teams coming to Louth and seeking to frustrate them, although Galway did start with two strikers on the pitch and had their moments going forward with Padraic Cunningham threatening with one long-range effort.
Jake Keegan, who was supported up top by Enda Curran, did have the ball in the net at one point but it was disallowed for a foul on Gabriel Sava - in for the suspended Gary Rogers whose dismissal turned the Rovers encounter.
The ponderous moments at the back were in keeping with a disjointed display and a Darren Meenan header from a Sava cross was the only attempt from the hosts that gave Hanley any bother.
Meanwhile, the eager Daryl Horgan was given some difficulty by his brother Colm who was deployed at right-back by the visitors.
But he enjoyed more space after the restart as proceedings opened up and Towell brought his league tally for the season to seven goals. The elder Horgan could have inflicted further pain on his native county on two occasions.
There was concern for Stephen Kenny ahead of the journey to Leeside as Brian Gartland hobbled off with a setback. That prompted him to withdraw Ronan Finn and McMillan ahead of what promises to be an intriguing test.
Dundalk - Sava, Gannon, Gartland (Barrett 63), Boyle, Massey; Shields; Meenan, Towell, Finn (O'Donnell 78), Horgan; McMillan (Mountney 76)
Galway - Hanley, Horgan, Garcia, Walsh, Ludden (Oji 56); Cunningham, O'Leary (Byrne 68), Connolly, Shanahan; Curran (O'Laoi 72), Keegan
Ref - P McLaughlin (Monaghan)