Wednesday 13 December 2017

Ton-up Lilywhites close in on double

Dundalk 2 Longford Town 0 FAI Cup Semi-Final

Longford Town goalkeeper Paul Skinner looks on as Dundalk players celebrate after Ronan Finn scored their second goal
Longford Town goalkeeper Paul Skinner looks on as Dundalk players celebrate after Ronan Finn scored their second goal
John Mountney, Dundalk, in action against Philip Gannon, Longford Town. Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup, Semi-Final, Dundalk v Longford Town, Oriel Park, Dundalk
Daryl Horgan, Dundalk, in action against Mark Salmon, Longford Town
Chris Shields, Dundalk, in action against Stephen Rice, Longford Town
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny celebrates with Andy Boyle at the end of the game

Gavin McLaughlin

The finest football team in the country will get the chance to strut their stuff on the biggest stage at the Aviva Stadium after Dundalk swatted away the challenge of Longford Town at Oriel Park.

Stephen Kenny's team have been relentless in their pursuit of honours this season and with the SSE Airtricity League title all but secured, victory in the final on November 8 would complete the club's third double, their first since 1988.

Longford presented Dundalk with plenty of problems in the two previous encounters between the sides at the border venue this season - becoming the only team to hold Dundalk scoreless in a league match back in August - but they failed to land a glove on the champions last night.

The opening goal - Dundalk's 100th of the season - came from an unlikely source in the 36th minute. From Daryl Horgan's corner, Paddy Barrett, deputising for the injured Brian Gartland, shrugged off the attentions of Gary Shaw to power his header past Pat Sullivan on the far post.

It was just rewards for Dundalk's start to the game.

Four minutes previously, Richie Towell left goalkeeper Paul Skinner helpless with a left-footed effort that kissed the crossbar.

Their best chance prior to the goal had come in the fourth minute, Ciaran Kilduff pulling his shot off target after leaving Sullivan in his wake to collect a wonderful Sean Gannon pass.

Longford looked preoccupied with frustrating Dundalk for much of the half and Lilywhites goalkeeper Gary Rogers was a bystander for large periods.

His only real moment of danger came early on when he showed safe hands to gather a deflected Connor Powell cross from under his crossbar.

The half-time break gave Tony Cousins and his players a chance to regroup but the scale of the their task became insurmountable after just four minutes of the second half when Ronan Finn's drive took a wicked deflection off the unfortunate Sullivan, leaving Skinner completely flat-footed.

From then on it was a case of how many Dundalk would get, with Horgan, Finn, Towell and Dane Massey all seeing efforts just miss the target.

Cousins turned to his bench in a bid to salvage something but substitute David O'Sullivan's 82nd minute shot, into Rogers' midriff, followed by a late Gary Shaw drive, were their only real chances of note.

Kenny also utilised his replacements and with a potential title winning fixture against Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght in seven days' time, Dundalk easily saw the game out in third gear to book their first FAI Cup final appearance since 2002 - they will meet either Bray Wanderers or Cork City.

DUNDALK - Rogers; Gannon, Boyle, Barrett, Massey; Towell, O'Donnell; Mountney (Meenan 42), Finn (Shields 75), Horgan; Kilduff (McMillan 81).

LONGFORD TOWN - Skinner; Haverty, Sullivan, Gorman, Powell; Rice, Gannon; Shannon (Deady 86), Salmon (O'Sullivan 60), Simon (Mulhall 66); Shaw.

REF - P McLaughlin.

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