DFC | Connolly catches the eye as Dundalk FC steamroll Drogs to book place in semis

FAI Cup Quarter-Final | Dundalk FC 4–0 Drogheda United

Dylan Connolly fires home Dundalk’s second goal of the night. PICTURE: BEN MCSHANE

Dylan Connolly put on a dazzling display as Dundalk brushed neighbours Drogheda United aside with ease at Oriel Park to book their place in the semi-finals of the FAI Cup for the fifth time in the past six seasons.

The 22-year-old, who arrived from Bray Wanderers in the summer, scored one and created two as Stephen Kenny’s side kept their hopes of reaching a third successive cup final at the Aviva Stadium alive.

The draw for the last four takes place on Monday and nobody, not even Cork City or Shamrock Rovers, will want to face Dundalk when they are in this kind of relentless form.

This win was their seventh on the spin in all competitions, with 23 goals scored and just a solitary one — against Crumlin United — conceded in the process.

Sean Gannon tries to break clear of Drogheda United’s Sean Russell. PICTURE: BEN MCSHANE

Kenny made two changes to the side that put six past St Patrick’s Athletic last week with Niclas Vemmelund and Robbie Benson coming in for Sean Hoare and Conor Clifford respectively.

Drogheda’s last outing was their 5–1 win over Cobh Ramblers in the previous round a fortnight ago but they weren’t helped by the loss of Chris Mulhall through suspension.

The last cup meeting between these sides came back in 2013 when Anthony Buttimer sent two Dundalk players off in Drogheda’s 1–0 win at United Park at the semi-final stage.

Three of the 22 players who started here were involved on that occasion: Dundalk’s Chris Shields, Brian Gartland and left-back Shane Grimes, who lined out for the Boynesiders that afternoon.

Michael Duffy puts Dundalk ahead after just five minutes. PICTURE: BEN MCSHANE

Odds of 25/1 were available on the Drogs to pull off an upset and the feeling before kick-off was that Pete Mahon’s side needed to draw first blood if they were to get anything from this quarter-final tie.

They almost did with Adam Wixted forcing Gary Rogers into a stunning save after just 90 seconds, the Dundalk ’keeper doing well to tip a dipping volley over his crossbar.

Dundalk hit the accelerator after that and they pulled in front in the fifth minute when Connolly’s cross found Michael Duffy at the back post and the in-form winger took advantage of some poor defending to lift the ball over Stephen McGuinness.

Dundalk’s Chris Shields turns away from Drogheda United’s Stephen Ellliot. PICTURE: BEN MCSHANE

With Drogheda forced to come out and play, Dundalk went in search of a second and Connolly almost picked out David McMillan with a dangerous ball across the area three minutes later.

Patrick McEleney then set up Duffy with an outrageous pass with the outside of his right foot in the 21st minute, the winger seeing his effort gathered by McGuinness on this occasion.

The tie was all but put to bed seven minutes later. Connolly picked the ball up, set himself and let fly from 30 yards, his curling effort flying inside the helpless McGuinness’ left-hand post. Sublime.

Drogheda posed very few problems in the final third and they were fortunate to go in just two behind with McEleney blazing over after forcing himself into a shooting position on the edge of the penalty area.

Brian Gartland stoops in between a crowd of bodies to head home goal number three. PICTURE: BEN MCSHANE

Any notions that Dundalk might settle for what they had were dispelled when McMillan flashed a drive across goal just seconds after the restart and the third duly arrived in the 49th minute when Brian Gartland headed a Duffy free-kick past McGuinness.

Connolly should have made it four but steered an effort wide under pressure from Dave Mulcahy. However, he made amends in the 57th minute with a surging run that ended with him being upended in the box and McMillan hammered home the spot kick.

Luke Gallagher went close to pulling one back for the Drogs but his cracking effort came back off the woodwork with Rogers beaten.

Drogheda were on the back foot again in the 67th minute when Duffy rounded McGuinness only to see his attempt hacked off the line and substitute Steven Kinsella was also denied by a last ditch clearance.

Michael Duffy congratulates David McMillan after the striker’s penalty made it 4–0. PICTURE: BEN MCSHANE

McMillan missed a gilt edged chance to make it 5–0, after a deflected effort came back off the woodwork, with 12 minutes to play before referee Neil Doyle finally put the Drogs out of their misery.

DUNDALK FC: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon (Sean Hoare 70), Brian Gartland, Niclas Vemmelund, Shane Grimes; Chris Shields (Stephen O’Donnell 63), Robbie Benson; Dylan Connolly (Steven Kinsella 58), Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy; David McMillan. Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (GK), Conor Clifford, Jamie McGrath, Thomas Stewart.

DROGHEDA UNITED: Stephen McGuinness; Shane Elworthy, Dave Mulcahy, Stephen Dunne, Conor Kane; Jake Hyland (Sean Brennan 70), Richard Purdy (Jack Bayly 76), Luke Gallagher; Adam Wixted, Thomas Byrne, Sean Russell (Stephen Elliott HT). Subs not used: Lloyd Buckley, Mark Doyle, Harry Hogan, Ryan McEvoy.

REFEREE: Neil Doyle. ATTENDANCE: 2493.

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