Tuesday 18 June 2019

Records racking up for the Lilywhites

Waterford 1 Dundalk 2

Dean Jarvis of Dundalk in action against Gavan Holohan of Waterford
Dean Jarvis of Dundalk in action against Gavan Holohan of Waterford

James Rogers

The league title might be already in the bag but the wins and records keep on coming for new champions Dundalk FC.

After celebrating being officially crowned champions the previous weekend, a trip to face Waterford FC in the RSC looked a tricky assignment. Just like all others in recent months, they met it head on and claimed a fully deserved 26th win of the season - surpassing their previous best of 25 achieved in 2015.

Having broken the Premier Division goalscoring record, Patrick Hoban completed the full set of scoring against every side in the league this season when he broke the deadlock in the 50thminute for his 27th league goal of the season.

Ronan Murray then doubled the lead three minutes later to set a new league record of 79 goals in a Premier Division season, surpassing the total of 78 which Dundalk managed in 2015.

The win here also means another record can now be surpassed if they win at home to Sligo Rovers on Friday night, a match which will precede the highly anticipated trophy presentation. Victory in Waterford leaves the Lilywhites on 83 points and if they can claim another three against the Bit O Red this season or away to Bohemians the following week then it will surpass the record of 85 points achieved by the double winning Bohs side of 2008.

This side haven't always got the plaudits they deserved but they have been simply magnificent all season and show no signs of letting up with one eye on next month's FAI Cup final.

Despite being forced into four changes with Daniel Cleary and Chris Shields suspended, Robbie Benson injured and Jamie McGrath on international duty, Stephen Kenny's side dominated from the off. Problems in midfield saw the Derry pair of Dean Jarvis and Patrick McEleney deployed there and the latter, in particular, was a class above everyone else on the pitch as he ran the show from start to finish.

Perhaps the only two downsides from a Dundalk perspective was that they didn't score more - because they certainly had the chances - and that another clean sheet wasn't achieved from a match in which Alan Reynolds' men rarely threatened.

It had been a good week for the Blues having qualified for Europe last Monday but this game and the 27 point difference which now exists between the two sides shows how big the gap is between Dundalk and those hoping to be part of the chasing pack next season.

It was all one-way traffic in the first half with the visitors dominating the possession and the chances. The first big one fell their way on 11 minutes when Brian Gartland's header from a Michael Duffy corner broke to Hoban, who struck it sweetly on the half volley only to see it blocked on the line by Izzy Akinade.

The league's top scorer had a couple of other half chances just off target with his head after that but it was the 28th minute before Niall Corbet was called into action when he turned Patrick McEleney's effort around the post.

Dane Massey then headed onto the roof of the net from a tight angle 10 minutes before the break before Ronan Murray passed up another good opening in stoppage time when he scuffed a shot from Michael Duffy's pull back. That shot broke to John Mountney, who was denied by the legs of Corbet but the offside flag meant it wouldn't have stood anyway.

By contrast, Waterford only registered one shot in the first half with Dylan Barnett firing tamely into the arms of Gary Rogers on 18 minutes after overrunning the ball following a good burst down the left.

The home support were pleased to get to half-time scoreless but the pressure finally told within five minutes of the restart when Hoban broke the deadlock with a back post header from Sean Gannon's cross for what was his 30th goal in all competitions this season.

Within three minutes it was 2-0 as Murray collected a pass inside from the right from John Mountney to squeeze a shot to the net off the inside of the left hand upright.

Dundalk had a few chances to add to their lead after that with arguably the pick of them coming 10 minutes from the end when Rory Feely blocked a shot from Mountney on the line.

Substitute Hutchinson did give the home side brief hope of getting back into it when he pulled a goal back from Gavan Holohan's pass in the 89th minute but despite four additional minutes they couldn't force what would have been an ill deserved equaliser.

The Dundalk juggernaut trundles on. This match might have meant little in the grand scheme of things but it shows there are no signs of them taking their foot off the gas. The records continue to tumble from this great side and the plaudits grow ever greater as a result.

The Argus