Thursday 18 January 2018

Classy Dundalk turn on style to keep double dreams alive

Dundalk 4 Sligo Rovers 0

John Russell, Sligo Rovers, in action against Chris Shields, Dundalk at Oriel Park
John Russell, Sligo Rovers, in action against Chris Shields, Dundalk at Oriel Park
John Russell, Sligo Rovers, in action against Richie Towell, left, and Brian Gartland, Dundalk
Dundalk's Ronan Finn, centre, celebrates with team-mates Chris Shields, left, and Darren Meenan after scoring his side's third goal
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The ability to bounce back from a disappointing result has marked this Dundalk team out as something special.

Six days after failing to beat Sligo Rovers in the league at this venue, the Louth club showcased those qualities again as they comfortably brushed aside the Bit O'Red to march into the semi-finals of the FAI Cup.

Stephen Kenny's side fired blanks in the first half but the gulf in class between these protagonists was apparent as they piled on constant pressure.

When they turned that dominance into clear-cut chances, Micky Adams' charges had no response, with classy goals from Daryl Horgan, Ciaran Kilduff, Ronan Finn and sub Sean Maguire keeping their increasingly realistic dreams of the double alive.

At the final whistle, the PA boomed out Starship's 'Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now' over the tannoy. That just about summed up the mood of jubilation after a performance to make the patrons forget the miserable weather.

"All it does is get us into the next round," cautioned Kenny. "There's no point in getting knocked out in the semi or that performance is forgotten."

Dundalk knew what to expect from visitors who came here in good heart following a five-game unbeaten run under Adams, including the scattered 2-2 affair in this venue.

Kenny reckoned that his team needed a few days off considering that fixture came at the end of a hectic week featuring tough games with Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers.

His team looked fresh here. Kenny has rotated in the earlier rounds of this competition but he opted against making changes and that decision was vindicated.

The energy of holding midfielder Chris Shields set the tone, and Richie Towell was livelier too.

Still, for all their dominance, they created few chances before the break. Sligo have found a new spirit under Adams, and defended their area well. In addition to a penalty shout, a half-chance for John Russell served a warning to the hosts.

Kenny's men responded by moving up the gears and they went ahead in the 55th minute when Horgan, who had fired into orbit from close range seconds earlier, drifted inside to embark on an uncomplicated run that culminated with a right-footed curler past Richard Brush.

Sligo's night went from bad to worse when they lost centre-half Tim Clancy to injury on the hour mark. Before they could recover, a Darren Meenan free was looped over Brush by a magical flick from the heel of Kilduff.

Finn scored both goals last Saturday and brought his tally to four in three games as he arrowed inside to open his body and pick his spot in the bottom corner from outside the box with Brush left clutching at air again.

And, while Kenny did withdraw Towell, Sean Gannon and Ciaran Kilduff with the win in the bag, his team showed no mercy.

Horgan should have made it four but lost his footing when he rounded Brush. Maguire made no mistake against his former club after being given the freedom of the Sligo half. It delivered a fitting scoreline to this one-sided contest.

Dundalk - Rogers, Gannon (Barrett 80), Boyle, Gartland, Massey; Shields, Towell (Mountney 78); Meenan, Finn, Horgan; Kilduff (Maguire 85)

Sligo Rovers - Brush, Keane, Peers, Clancy (Nielsen 61), Donelon; Cawley, Boylan; Myrie-Williams, Russell, Cretaro (Lehane 73); Corcoran (Elding 61)

Ref - T Connolly (Dublin)

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