Saturday 15 December 2018

Beast from north east storms to first victory

Dundalk 8 Limerick 0

James Rogers

The Beast from the North East got up and running at the third time of asking in some style on Tuesday night as Dundalk hit Limerick FC for eight at Oriel Park.

Having failed to score for back-to-back league matches for the first time under Stephen Kenny's reign in their opening two matches against Bray Wanderers and Shamrock Rovers the Lilywhites made up for it in style against the Shannonsiders.

Tommy Barrett's side froze in the ice-cold conditions as they were blown away by Dundalk right from the off.

While there will be tougher challenges ahead, the performance on the night will have warmed the hearts of the home support.

This was Dundalk back at their free-flowing and devastating best after the frustrations of the opening two matches when, in truth, the side didn't really do enough to win either game.

An early goal on the night certainly helped with Limerick crumbling from the moment Pat Hoban opened the scoring on seven minutes. It finished eight but could easily have been into double figures.

Kenny won't be getting too carried away with the result but it is a superb confidence booster ahead of Friday night's crunch match with Cork City.

It was the sort of game that the manager couldn't have scripted much better had he been allowed. Hoban looked sharp and held the ball up well, Michael Duffy terrorised the opposition throughout and bagged a brace, Ronan Murray chipped in with four assists, there was another clean sheet, first goals for Stephen Folan and Karolis Chvedukas and also strikes from Robbie Benson and Dylan Connolly, who have been criticised perhaps more than most so far this year.

One swallow doesn't make a summer but there was definitely more positivity about the challenges ahead after this game as the side finally clicked into gear after two sluggish performances before that.

Admittedly, Limerick effectively threw in the towel at an early stage but this was vintage Dundalk - tearing vulnerable opposition apart when the opportunity arises.

No one at Oriel would have been panicking after the failure to win the opening two games but for supporters who were concerned, the facts are Dundalk are now up to third with a chance to close the gap on Cork to one on Friday. Only John Caulfield's side have scored more (9) while their goal difference is the best in the division by two.

Friday will give a better indication of where Dundalk are at but as a build up to it, you couldn't have asked for much better preparation.

Having gone close to a breakthrough after just 90 seconds, the home side took the lead after just seven minutes when Hoban flicked Murray's cross from the left across Brendan Clarke to the bottom right hand corner.

It was 2-0 just three minutes later when Benson finished to the opposite corner following a neat exchange with Duffy at the edge of the box.

Hoban then made it 3-0 on 25 minutes when he cut in from the right on his left foot to curl a shot to the far corner of the net.

Former Limerick man Stephen Folan then made it 4-0 at the break when he flicked Duffy's corner to the net on the stroke of half-time.

Dundalk didn't let up on the restart and Murray was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet on 51 minutes when he was denied by a superb save from Clarke after being played in by Hoban.

The latter then went agonizingly close to a hat-trick a minute later but on this occasion his left foot shot came back off the butt of the post.

The 26-year-old then went close again on 58 minutes when a superb ball from Dane Massey put him in behind the Limerick defence. He attempted to chip Clarke but the keeper managed to keep it out at full stretch.

The fifth did finally arrive on 64 minutes with substitute Karolis Chvedukas on hand to fire in a debut goal from the edge of the box after Murray's effort had come back off the post.

Duffy then made it six less than two minutes later when he skipped away from Shaun Kelly on the left to fire across Clarke to the bottom right hand corner.

Dylan Connolly then made it seven 11 minutes from the end when he seized on an underhit back pass by Darren Dennehy to break free before rounding the goalkeeper to score.

Limerick did go close to a consolation close to the end but Gary Rogers ensured his third clean sheet in-a-row with a superb stop to deny Mark O'Sullivan.

Their night was to get worse, however, as Duffy added a second in stoppage time from Connolly's cross to complete the rout.

Dundalk might have made a stuttering start to the campaign but they are now very much up and running.

The Argus