Towell hits four for Dundalk six-shooters
Dundalk 6-0 Drogheda
The breakthrough goal for Dundalk summed up the story of a Louth derby stroll that moved the defending champions one step closer to retaining their crown.
Mark Kinsella, the new Drogheda boss, made the pragmatic decision to come to Oriel Park with a gameplan which revolved around containing superior opposition. Recognised midfielders Sean Brennan and Keith Treacy rotated as lone striker in a tight unit with a sturdy spine.
Just short of the half-hour mark, the extent to which Dundalk owned the ball was brought home by centre-half Brian Gartland being able to wander forward and function as an extra creative midfielder.
They just needed a Drogheda group that had kept their discipline until that point to temporarily switch off.
That's what happened when Gartland's through ball found Richie Towell, who twisted into space and dragged the ball to the centre of the area where unmarked left winger Daryl Horgan had slipped in unnoticed to meet his team-mate's pass with a crisp right -footer that found the bottom corner. Sean Thornton was too slow to react when he spotted the danger.
Once they had picked the lock, there would be no looking back for Stephen Kenny's side. They streamrolled their neighbours.
This facile victory moves them 11 points clear at the top of the table with five games remaining although their closest pursuers, Cork City, have a match in hand.
At this stage, it's already a question of when Dundalk will secure the trophy - not if they will do so. Two more wins and a draw will effectively do it.
They chugged out of the blocks here, but when Drogheda fell behind and came out of their shell, Kenny's men destroyed them with Towell enjoying a field day to cement his position as the country's top scorer.
Five minutes after the interval, they doubled their lead when Horgan meandered down the left and teed up Towell who fizzed the ball beyond the despairing dive of Schlingermann.
For Drogheda, the situation with 11 men was grim. When Jason Marks was red-carded for hacking down Sean Gannon, this officially became a damage-limitation exercise. At first glance, it looked to be a harsh decision.
It could prove costly as goal difference may well become a factor in the increasingly congested battle to avoid the drop.
Drogheda are now just four points off bottom spot, and the margin here moves their differential to -24 - the same as basement side Limerick.
With the extra man, a third was quickly notched when Dave McMillan galloped into the box and got a touch which drew a foul from Schlingermann.
Referee Rob Rogers pointed to the spot and Towell did the rest.
That was his 20th in all competitions this season, which means he's won a bet with assistant Vinny Perth that guarantees the star man a two-night hotel break in Powerscourt with his girlfriend at the number two's expense.
Perth had disputed whether Towell's campaign opening strike in the President's Cup should count, but that debate was rendered irrelevant when the ex-Celtic youth completed his hat-trick by finding the roof of the net following a brilliant run from right full Sean Gannon.
That was actually Dundalk's fifth; McMillan struck his 12th goal of 2015 by feeding on the scraps of a free kick and clinically applying the final touch.
Both managers used up their three permitted substitutions at that point, preserving key men for the contrasting battles that lie ahead.
The energy of the individuals sprung from the best ensured there was no respite for Kinsella's charges and the impressive John Mountney laid the groundwork for Towell to send his fourth of the evening into the same side of the net as the other three. It completed a comprehensive show of strength which is becoming the norm.
DUNDALK - Rogers, Gannon, Boyle, Gartland, Massey; Shields, Towell; Meenan (Mountney 74), Finn (Maguire 81), Horgan; McMillan (Kilduff 77)
DROGHEDA UNITED - Schlingermann, Maher, Byrne, O'Reilly, Gorman; Whelan, Daly, Thornton (Hughes 69), Treacy (Duffy 57), Marks; Brennan (Bayly 61)
REF - R Rogers (Dublin)