Monday 19 February 2018

Rampant Lilies end Sligo season

David McMillan (right) is congratulated by Dane Massey after scoring Dundalk's first goal against Sligo Rovers in the FAI Ford Cup second round. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
David McMillan (right) is congratulated by Dane Massey after scoring Dundalk's first goal against Sligo Rovers in the FAI Ford Cup second round. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Dundalk's Dane Massey climbs highest in an aerial challenge with Sligo Rovers' Danny North. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Dundalk's Darren Meenan in action against Paul O'Conor of Sligo Rovers in the FAI Ford Cup second round game at Oriel Park. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

When Sligo Rovers beat Dundalk in the Setanta Cup final in Tallaght Stadium on May 10, there couldn't have been too many people who thought the Bit O'Red's season would effectively be over less than four weeks later.

Dundalk 3 Sligo Rovers 0

Unfortunately, for Ian Baraclough and his men, that is the how things are looking following their fifth defeat in the past six meetings with Stephen Kenny's relentless Lilywhites.

A 3-0 win for Dundalk two weeks earlier all but ended Sligo's league hopes.

The same scoreline last night drew the curtains on their FAI Cup reign.

After three cup final wins in the past four years, this will be tough to take on the north-west coast.

For Dundalk, a season that has seen them light up the league continues to purr sweetly along.

Since that cup final defeat in Tallaght, Kenny's side have won seven games on the bounce across three competitions, scoring 24 goals in the process.

There are purple patches and then there are purple patches like this.

It was the visitors who created the first real opportunity of the game just short of the quarter-hour.

Eric Odhiambo swept the ball out to the right for Danny North and raced into the area to collect the return.

The Rovers striker bore down on Peter Cherrie but his effort drifted wide of the target.

It proved to be a rare excursion into the Dundalk penalty area.

It was mostly one-way traffic for the remainder of the half. David McMillan, given a rare start due to Patrick Hoban's knee operation, forced Gary Rogers into a good save in the 16th minute and Dane Massey then saw a free header tipped away by the Sligo goalkeeper.

Dundalk's momentum grew by the minute and the pressure eventually told just past the half-hour mark.

Brian Gartland's pass from the back found Richie Towell on the left.

His delivery into McMillan's feet was top-class and the striker's finish was even better, losing his brother – Sligo centre-back Evan – to find space and delightfully find the top corner from 12 yards. The goal sparked scenes of celebration on and off the pitch.

This was McMillan's 10th goal in all competitions this season, an amazing record considering he has started only the same amount of games.

The second goal was always going to be crucial in determining the outcome and it arrived less than two minutes after the restart.

Again, it was the result of another incisive bit of football.

Towell picked McMillan out on the inside right and his lay-off was swept home emphatically by Daryl Horgan.

With their dreams of the Aviva Stadium on life support, Sligo Rovers needed an instant pick-me-up and they almost got it three minutes later.

Danny Ledwith's free-kick was met by the head of North but Cherrie got down to tip the ball wide.

It proved to be a rare bit of action for the Dundalk goalkeeper and the home side secured their passage to the last 16 when centre-back Brian Gartland made it 3-0 with a thumping finish after Rogers had denied McMillan a second.

Dundalk – Cherrie; Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey; Towell (Griffin 87), Shields; Meenan, Byrne (Byrne 65), Horgan (Higgins 82); D McMillan.

Sligo Rovers – Rogers; Ndo (Maguire 82), E McMillan, Spillane, Gaynor; Russell, O'Conor, Ledwith; Odihambo (Cretaro 58), North, Greene.

Referee – P Tuite.

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