REPORT | McMillan bags a brace as Dundalk cruise to win in Ballybofey
Finn Harps 0–2 Dundalk FC
Gavin McLaughlin reports from Finn Park
David McMillan was the star of the show as Dundalk left Ballybofey with all three points following a comfortable 2–0 win over Finn Harps.
As well as bagging a brace, the Lilywhites striker also hit the woodwork on two occasions, his performance demonstrating that he his well and truly back to his best after an injury plagued pre-season.
With Sean Gannon ruled out for two months and Paddy Barrett also absent with a thigh strain, Stephen Kenny was forced into reshuffling his back four yet again with Sean Hoare coming in alongside Brian Gartland to make his first competitive start.
Elsewhere, it was a case of as you are from the team that beat Drogheda United in the Louth Derby seven nights earlier but significantly, Patrick McEleney and captain Stephen O’Donnell were named on the bench.
Less than two minutes had been played when Michael Duffy cut in from the left flank to let fly with his right foot but Ciaran Gallagher saved comfortably.
The next 15 minutes drifted by quietly as both sides create very little but Dundalk started to play with a bit more purpose after that and chances eventually started to come.
A promising move on the left involving Thomas Stewart and Michael Duffy almost opened the hosts up in the 20th minute. The ball fell to Chris Shields on the edge of the box but his effort was deflected wide.
Two minutes later, Hoare, who looked very assured in possession, did well to cut out a Sean Houston cross that was intended for Caolan McAleer; some good defending by the former St Pat’s player.
Dundalk went within a lick of paint from taking the lead in the 26th minute. Dane Massey fizzed in a cross from the left and McMillan rose to meet it, his header beating Gallagher but not the post. The ball was hacked away by Harps skipper Ciaran Coll with Gartland ready to pounce.
The breakthrough did arrive in the 34th minute. This time the source came from the right, Niclas Vemmelund’s superb left-footed cross picking out McMillan who diverted the ball past Gallagher.
Dundalk looked more efficient in the second-half and Massey and McMillan combined again in the 52nd minute, the left back’s free flicked onto the woodwork by the Dundalk hitman.
McMillan continued to pose a real threat and he made it four goals in three games just two minutes later when he raced towards the near post to turn home Conor Clifford’s cross and put Dundalk firmly in the driving seat.
The champions pushed for another and Tommy Stewart went close on two occasions, firing an effort just wide before Gallagher did enough to rush from his line and get a hand on the Portadown man’s toe-poke from a Jamie McGrath pass over the top.
Ollie Horgan’s side, who had to plan without the services of striker Ciaran O’Connor due to the terms of loan arrangement from Dundalk, never really looked like finding a way back into it with a late Ciaran Coll effort that was collected by Gary Rogers their only real attempt.
Kenny was able to introduce O’Donnell for the final six minutes as Dundalk cruised to a victory that keeps them six points behind leaders Cork City.
FINN HARPS: Ciaran Gallagher; Damien McNulty, Ciaran Coll, Killian Cantwell, Gareth Harkin; Jonny Bonner ((BJ Banda 83), Barry Molloy (Mickey Funston 76); Ethan Boyle, Paddy McCourt (Eddie Dsane 68), Caolan McAleer; Sean Houston. Subs not used: Packie Malley, Tommy McMonagle, Simon McGlynn, Harry Doherty (GK).
DUNDALK FC: Gary Rogers; Niclas Vemmelund, Brian Gartland, Sean Hoare, Dane Massey; Conor Clifford, Chris Shields (Stephen O’Donnell 84); Jamie McGrath, Thomas Stewart (John Mountney 86), Michael Duffy; David McMillan (Ciaran Kilduff 87). Subs: Gabriel Sava (GK), , Patrick McEleney, Steven Kinsella, Emmet Hughes.
REFEREE: Paul Tuite. ATTENDANCE: 1,112.