After a collapse in Donegal on Friday that raised questions about attitude and a turbulent Covid influenced build-up that decimated the dressing room, Dundalk showed character to keep their FAI Cup hopes alive.
xtra time goals from Patrick Hoban and Michael Duffy allowed Vinny Perth’s side to progress beyond a Finn Harps team that peaked early in this replay, running out of ideas against an opponent that was down to the bare bones.
When it came down to the crunch, however, Dundalk’s big players responded to book their place in Friday’s semi final draw.
There had been a move at one point on Monday to see if a postponement was possible given Dundalk’s issues but that was never going to be a runner.
The absence of Andy Boyle, Daniel Cleary and Sam Stanton from the teamsheet confirmed that the spine of the team was weakened with rookie Mayowa Animasahun selected at centre half next to Darragh Leahy, a full back returning from injury.
Harps sniffed blood, and Friday night’s hero Sean Boyd built on his selection by picking up where he left off with a stunning first touch and finish in the seventh minute arguably of a higher standard than his injury time leveller at Finn Park.
With Dundalk’s rearguard looking nervy, it looked as though a long evening beckoned with the atmosphere created by the return of a proper crowd punctured by the early setback.
But the Lilywhites hung in there through some difficult periods and got back on level terms before the interval when Sean Murray anticipated an unorthodox bicycle kick cross from Pat Hoban and found a way past Harps stand-in keeper Ger Doherty.
It was a goal that would prove good enough to bring the game to extra-time with the second half tense and tentative with a double stop from recalled Dundalk keeper Peter Cherrie the highlight.
Dundalk’s attacking players showed glimpses of their quality but fatigue was a concern with no seasoned options on the bench. By contrast, Harps were able to freshen things up. However, there was a hint of tiredness in Dave Webster’s attempt to challenge Sami Ben Amar that resulted in ref Ben Connolly pointing to the spot.
The contact appeared to be light but there was real assurance in Hoban’s conversion. It put life in Dundalk legs and it was a foul on the savvy stand-in skipper Hoban that allowed Duffy to step up and curl home a free kick that put the result beyond doubt and allowed the Oriel Park fans to enjoy a rare moment of light in a year of darkness.
Dundalk: Cherrie, Jurkovskis, Animasahun, Leahy, Dummigan; Sloggett; Ben Amar (Hanratty 100), Murray (Douglas 114), Patching, Duffy; Hoban
Finn Harps: Doherty, Boyle, McEleney, Sadiki, Webster (Doherty 105); Coyle; O'Sullivan, McNamee (Hawkins 105), Rainey (Connolly 88); Boyd (Foley 70), Owolabi (Rudden 112)
Referee: Ben Connolly