Sunday 21 January 2018

McMillan steps up to keep Dundalk in control

Dundalk 2 Galway Utd 1

David McMillan celebrates with team-mate John Mountney after scoring his side's second goal (SPORTSFILE)
David McMillan celebrates with team-mate John Mountney after scoring his side's second goal (SPORTSFILE)
Paul Sinnott in action against Ronan Finn (SPORTSFILE)
Andrew Boyle in action against Vinny Flaherty (SPORTSFILE)
Ronan Finn in action against Marc Ludden (SPORTSFILE)
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

We may be only a third of the way into the League of Ireland season but the case against a successful title defence for Dundalk is already looking shaky.

Stephen Kenny's men have taken 28 from a possible 33 points to open up a five-point lead at the top, and the source of last night's goals to defeat a capable Galway United side will have delighted the manager.

Injuries in the striking department have given the Lilywhites boss some cause for concern, with a long term lay-off for Ciaran Kilduff and local brothers Ciaran and Michael O'Connor leaving Dave McMillan as the last man standing.

He stood up to be counted here, bouncing back from some missed chances to bag a decisive second-half brace.

It was no more than they deserved for a purposeful 45 minutes which compensated for a lethargic opening.

The contrast between Dundalk's home and away performances has been a notable feature of this title defence. On their travels, goals have flowed, with 17 scored in six games - all of which have ended in victory.

By contrast, they have dropped five points at home and hit the target just seven times in five outings.

Visiting teams have found that if they close Kenny's side down on their controversial artificial pitch, they can halt their rhythm. Galway boss Tommy Dunne did start with two strikers but a solid shape and strong work ethic was central to maintaining parity until the interval.

Dundalk were guilty of sloppiness that couldn't be attributed to the surface and after testing Conor Winn twice in the first half, the chances stacked up from the restart as full-backs Dane Massey and Sean Gannon started to probe, with the latter almost breaking the deadlock within four minutes of the resumption.

That set the tone for the absolute dominance that followed, with McMillan and Daryl Horgan guilty of profligacy from close range as Galway were forced to hit reverse and early assurance was replaced by panic.

Shortly after Winn made a fine stop from Ronan Finn, white shirts again piled forward in numbers and Horgan - tracked throughout by his younger brother Colm - fed winter recruit Robbie Benson, whose nifty footwork fashioned the opportunity for McMillan to convert.

If that 70th-minute effort was about poaching skills, the insurance goal was all about opportunism as he brilliantly volleyed into the empty net when the luckless Winn raced from his area to avert a Horgan break with an acrobatic header.

Unsurprisingly, after picking up a knock, McMillan was called ashore with Tuesday's date with Bray in mind, with an injury-time strike from Galway sub Eric Foley coming too late to affect the outcome.

Dundalk - Rogers, Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey; Shields; Mountney, Finn (Barrett 87), Benson (Poynton 90), Horgan; McMillan (Meenan 85).

Galway United - Winn, Horgan, Cantwell, Sinnott, Walsh; Shanahan (Devaney 78), Byrne (Foley 80), Sullivan, Ludden; Curran (Keating 71); Faherty.

ref - R Matthews (Longford)

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