Wednesday 25 April 2018

Sixy Football

Dundalk 6 - St Pat's Athletic 0

James Rogers at Oriel Park

The league title might not be staying in Dundalk but there's little doubt that there is only one team in the country playing like champions at present.

Stephen Kenny's side ripped apart St Patrick's Athletic on Friday night with a scintillating display of football. They finished the evening with six goals. In truth, it could have been at least double that.

Admittedly, the sending off of Pat's captain Ian Bermingham just before half-time was a hammer blow to Liam Buckley's men but they were already clinging on by that stage.

The latest victory means Dundalk have now scored 40 goals domestically and conceded just three times since their return from the mid-season break. Unfortunately two of those goals conceded following the Champions League exit away to Rosenborg - in the 1-0 defeat at home to Shamrock Rovers and in the 1-1 draw away to Sligo Rovers - means that any chance of a late title charge as Cork stutter looks out of the question. Nevertheless supports can't but be delighted with the way this side are playing at present.

On a night where - if results had been different - Cork City could have won the league, Dundalk showed a continued determination to make them work to take the title.

Supposedly the prospect of being officially dethroned wasn't discussed in the home dressing room beforehand but closing the gap on John Caulfield's side to as small a margin as possible must be a motivator still as a matter of pride.

Form also can't be just switched on like a tap and with two cup matches to follow - next Friday's FAI Cup quarter-final tie at home to Drogheda Utd and the EA Sports Cup final against Shamrock Rovers eight days later - it bodes well that Dundalk are in such red hot form.

Late goals for Dylan Connolly and Thomas Stewart will do their confidence the world of good while the general form of the team as a whole will give everyone a belief that silverware remains a possibility in the form of the two cups.

Pat's hopes of doing Cork a favour and boosting their own survival hopes suffered a huge blow after just 13 minutes when goalkeeper Barry Murphy was stretchered off later to be replaced by debutant Lukasz Skowron.

The visitors were fortunate not to have been behind in the same incident five minutes earlier with David McMillan racing onto Sean Gannon's pass to fire past the advancing keeper, who he collided with. Unfortunately for Dundalk Jordi Balk was on hand to hook of the line.

Pat's were largely on the back foot for much of the first half but did have a decent effort on 21 minutes when Graham Kelly curled an effort just wide after beating Chris Shields.

The home side had the bulk of the chances though and Patrick McEleney should have opened the scoring on 29 minutes when he was played in behind the visitors defence by Brian Gartland. However, with only Skowrow to beat he fired across the face of goal.

Michael Duffy was looking the most threatening for Dundalk and 10 minutes later he forced a stunning stop from Skowron, who got down to his right to tip the winger's low drive around the post.

A minute later Duffy then turned provider as he beat Balk to cross to the waiting McMillan but his effort was blocked on the line by Lee Desmond.

The same pair would be involved in the incident which changed the match on the stroke of half-time. McMillan went down in the box after a challenge from the centre half with Pat's captain Bermingham sent-off in the aftermath as he protested with referee Jim McKell.

McMillan then stepped up to hammer home the resultant penalty before adding a second in the fifth minute of stoppage time when he headed home Duffy's corner.

Despite an early effort from Kelly at the start of the second half, it was largely one way traffic on the restart with Dundalk adding to their lead on 50 minutes when Gannon tore in from the right to bury a shot to the bottom left hand corner.

Pat's were by now on the ropes. McMillan fired wide seven minutes later in what was a great chance to complete his hat-trick before Skowron denied both Conor Clifford and Robbie Benson with close range efforts in a move that culminated with Duffy striking the crossbar.

The fourth goal did arrive on the hour mark with Duffy breaking on the left to square for Benson to lash home his 10th league goal for Dundalk.

The home side were far from finished though with Dylan Connolly bursting clear on the right to slot home his first goal for the club on 73 minutes.

Then eight minutes from the end Thomas Stewart made it six by lashing high to the net after Sean Hoare's header had come off the upright

McEleney would go close to a seventh in stoppage time following a weaving run into the box.

Dundalk would have to settle for six of the best but if this is settling then there will be plenty around Oriel happy to do so in the weeks ahead.

The Argus