DFC | Lilywhites put luckless Harps to the sword at Oriel Park

SSE Airtricity League | Dundalk FC 4–0 Finn Harps

Dundalk FC’s Patrick McEleney prepares to pull the trigger and make it 3–0 against Finn Harps. PICTURE: CIARAN CULLIGAN

After hitting six goals without reply against Drogheda United, Dundalk bagged another four against Finn Harps at Oriel Park on Friday night but they needed a bit of good fortune along the way.

The teams went in scoreless at the break with the champions left frustrated by a well-drilled Harps performance but once Robbie Benson made the breakthrough — with an effort he knew very little about — Dundalk opened up and ran riot.

Unsurprisingly, Stephen Kenny named an unchanged line-up from last week’s derby with Niclas Vemmelund and Brian Gartland again paired at the back.

Harps, who lost all four of their previous games with the Lilywhites, shipping 14 goals and scoring none in the process, were boosted by the return of some key players.

Damien McNulty, Ethan Boyle, Caolan McAleer and Danny Morrissey were available after suspension but Ciaran O’Connor missed out due to the terms of his loan agreement.

The hosts started brightly and Michael Duffy’s second minute half volley was easily gathered by Ciaran Gallagher after some neat set-up play by David McMillan and Patrick McEleney on the edge of the Harps penalty area.

Harps grew into things as the half progressed and Dundalk were left frustrated in the final third. Their next opening didn’t arrive until the 23rd minute when Duffy’s teasing ball across the face of goal just evaded the incoming McMillan.

That seemed to spark the champions into life and Thomas Stewart flashed a header wide before Gallagher rushed from his line to deny McMillan after a pass by McEleney cut the Harps backline open.

The Finn Harps goalkeeper was called into action again on the half-hour, getting down low to his right to push a McEleney volley away to safety.

Ollie Horgan’s side had their moments and with 35 minutes played, they went close to pulling ahead. Gareth Harkin’s ball down the left channel found Sean Houston in space but Gary Rogers got an important touch on his drive to take it wide for a corner.

From the subsequent delivery, Rogers was relieved to see a looping header from Stephen O’Donnell bounce off the top of his crossbar with the Meathman surrounded by yellow shirts.

Stewart drew another good stop from Gallagher and Dundalk’s best opening of the half came and went in stoppage time.

McMillan did brilliantly to pull a Brian Gartland pass down with his right foot and cut inside Killian Cantwell but he couldn’t apply the finishing touch, firing wide with his left.

The second-half was six minutes old when Dundalk made the breakthrough. After running on to a delicious McEleney backheel, Dane Massey let fly with a half-volley that Gallagher did brilliantly to push away. Unfortunately for the Harps netminder, the ball cannoned off the face of Benson and flew into the net.

Horgan and his coaching staff were up in arms after having loud appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Ben Connolly from the restart. Replays suggested that Sean Gannon was fortunate to escape after catching Houston.

And the game was put to bed four minutes later. McEleney beat Cantwell in a 50/50 and McMillan pounced to take the ball around Gallagher and steer home from a tight angle.

Dundalk turned on the style after that and goal number three arrived in the 63rd minute, McEleney collecting a Duffy pass to dink another Goal of the Month contender past the helpless Gallagher.

Substitute Jamie McGrath, who sustained a wrist injury towards the end, put the icing on the cake with a tidy finish after good work by Michael Duffy on the left with 10 minutes to go.

DUNDALK FC: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Niclas Vemmelund, Dane Massey; Robbie Benson, Stephen O’Donnell (Chris Shields 71); Michael Duffy, Patrick McEleney (Ciaran Kilduff 730, Thomas Stewart (Jamie McGrath 62); David McMillan. Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (GK), Paddy Barrett, John Mountney, Sean Hoare.

FINN HARPS: Ciaran Gallagher; Damien McNulty, Ciaran Coll, Killian Cantrell, Gareth Harkin; Caolan McAleer, Johnny Bonner (Eddie Dsane 60), Ethan Boyle, Paddy McCourt (Barry Molloy 65), Sean Houston (Pascal Millien 73); Danny Morrissey. Subs not used: Harry Doherty (GK), BJ Banda, Simon McGlynn, Gareth Doherty.

REFEREE: Ben Connolly. ATTENDANCE: 2,037.

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