Niall Newberry reports from Oriel Park
Dundalk returned to the summit of the SSE Airtricity League for at least 24 hours after a hat-trick from Patrick Hoban and a beautiful strike from the magnificent Krisztian Adorjan saw them defeat struggling Limerick 4-0 at Oriel Park on Friday night.
The Lilywhites made three changes from the side which came from behind to sweep aside Shamrock Rovers away last week with Dean Jarvis, Karolis Chvedukas and Adorjan all coming in place of Dane Massey, the suspended Chris Shields and Jamie McGrath respectively.
Limerick, who hadn’t won in any of their previous 11 meetings with Dundalk, made two alterations from last weekend’s draw with Bohemians as Killian Brouder and Cian Coleman replaced Shaun Kelly and Daniel Kearns, with the latter dropping to the substitutes bench.
The first 15 minutes of this encounter was a somewhat scrappy affair and the game’s first real opening came when a Jarvis ball from the left was flashed wide by Hoban before a wonderful cross from Dylan Connolly was headed straight into the arms of Brendan Clarke by Adorjan.
Michael Duffy has been arguably the most influential player in the SSE Airtricity League so far this season and he really should have put Dundalk ahead after a brilliant dummy from Hoban put the Derry native through on goal, but he somehow slotted his effort wide when one-on-one with Clarke.
Duffy again went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock when he crashed his effort off the post after Benson had played him through, before Hoban’s first-time shot from distance forced Clarke into a good save – the league’s top scorer almost scrambled an effort home moments later.
The hosts finally took the lead four minutes before the half-time interval when Hoban’s deflected shot rifled past the helpless Clarke – it was Hoban’s 16th goal of the season and 50th league goal in Dundalk colours across two spells.
Hoban came close again when he turned and shot wide following a pass from Adorjan, who was outstanding throughout, and the Hungarian played a beautiful pass into the path of Hoban minutes later. He blazed over, but Dundalk quite deservedly went in a goal to the good at the break.
Connolly used his blistering place to get the beating of Limerick defender Killian Brouder before planting a cross into the path of the advancing Duffy, but he blazed well over from close range as Dundalk went in search of a second goal after the restart.
Connolly has been much improved in recent weeks after a rather indifferent start to the season and he won a penalty after being pulled down in the box by Limerick captain Shane Duggan following a mix up in defence. Hoban made no mistake from the spot to score his and Dundalk’s second of the night.
Dundalk made the game safe with about 20 minutes to go after Duffy’s corner was headed back to him by Sean Hoare before a dummy from Benson allowed the magnificent Adorjan to rifle his effort high into the top corner – a perfect way to cap off what was a truly outstanding performance from the Hungarian playmaker.
Hoban should have scored his third of the night when he headed substitute Sean Gannon’s cross straight into the arms of Clarke before the Limerick goalkeeper produced a decent save to deny Adorjan.
Hoban did complete his hat-trick – leaving him just 17 goals behind the club’s record league scorer Joey Donnelly – with six minutes to go, however.
A superb cross from the right by Connolly was turned in by the outstretched leg of the Premier Division’s leading scorer as Dundalk go top of the league for 24 hours at least.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Hoare, Brian Gartland, Daniel Cleary, Dean Jarvis; Dylan Connolly, Karolis Chvedukas (Sean Gannon 52), Robbie Benson (Georgie Poynton 85), Michael Duffy (Ronan Murray 76); Krisztian Adorjan, Patrick Hoban.
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava, Stephen Folan, Sam Byrne, Marco Tagbajumi.
Limerick: Brendan Clarke; Killian Cantwell, Tony Whitehead, Eoin Wearen, Killian Brouder, Shane Duggan; Conor Clifford (Shane Tracy 13), Cian Coleman, William Fitzgerald (Jeff McGowan 85), Barry Maguire (Daniel Kearns 28); Mark O’Sullivan.
Subs not used: Tommy Holland, Jason Cross, Ger Barry, Colm Walsh-O’Loghlen.
Booked: Duggan (65), O’Sullivan (76).
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Attendance: 2,276 (official).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Patrick Hoban (Dundalk).