Premier Division Champions Dundalk brushed First Division strugglers Shelbourne aside in the second round of the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup in Oriel Park on Friday night. A five goal rout dumped the Reds out of the cup and banished the Lilywhites’ home FAI Cup hoodoo against the Tolka Park side.
The Town have looked unbeatable in the league lately but history was not on their side heading into this match; they had never beaten Shelbourne at home in the FAI Cup after three times of asking.The home side quickly set about making amends and were on the front foot early on, but the best chance of the opening exchanges fell to the visitors.
Shels could have taken the lead on the tenth minute, when Paddy Barrett miskicked into the path of Mark Sandford. The Shels striker ran through on goal only to watch his effort skirt the outside of the post.
That was Shelbourne’s only shot on target in the first half and their forays forward were quickly stifled by the efficient Lilywhite defence and industrious midfield. Shels played this game with their backs to the wall. The Lilywhite’s had players queuing up for opportunities in the box and in the opening minutes Kurtis Byrne and John Mountney both went close.
Stephen Kenny made four changes to the side that undid Saint Patricks Athletic in Richmond Park last week and he will have a pleasant selection headache if this performance was anything to go by. The Lilywhites dominated from start to finish with a superb team effort; virtually every player in a white shirt worthy of a man of the match performance, though it was a bit of luck that put them ahead.
The thirteenth minute was unlucky for Shels, Ryan Robinson tried to head clear a Daryl Horgan cross but lobbed it up and over the helpless Greg Murray to give Dundalk the lead. Not ten minutes later, Dundalk’s lead was doubled after the Premier Champions began to put a real squeeze on the Reds.
Just past the twenty minute mark, Shane Grimes forced a corner from a dangerous shot out on the left that Murray could only parry into the side net. The resulting corner was very nearly converted by Mountney, but again Murray stood in the way and pushed it over for a second corner. Shels still didn’t clear their lines and the ball was worked to Jake Kelly who finished from the edge of the box.
By half time the sizable contingent of travelling fans were only too aware of the gulf in class between the teams. Any possibility they fostered of getting back into this tie were scuppered four minutes after the restart when Kurtis Byrne coolly struck home from a Daryl Horgan corner to effectively kill off the tie.
Stephen Kenny introduced youngster Ciarán O’Connor on the 64th minute in Daryl Horgan’s place. He made an instant impact by almost teeing up Kurtis Byrne for a fourth goal before cascading down the left only to be taken down for a penalty. Up stepped Richie Towell whose precision shot was agonisingly out of the reach of Murray’s dive.
Ronan Finn got in on the goalscoring act on the 78th minute. Jake Kelly found Sean Gannon’s marauding run on the right wing. Gannon crossed and found O’Connor who did well to head it goalwards and into the path of the lurking Finn, who had an easy job to put it away.
Shelbourne introduced Philly Hughes for Sandford and Jake Donnelly for Craig Walsh in the second half but the fixture was beyond rescue. Shels almost nicked a consolation goal at the death when Alan O’Sullivan capitalised on some ping-pong in the home box to poke a header away, though Gabriel Sava’s reflexes were equal to it.
Dundalk are proving as deadly in the cup as they have been in the league and remain unbeaten in their completive efforts. This result won’t send out any shockwaves, they were expected to win, but it is a statement of their intent to be competitive on all fronts: They progress into the third round as the team everyone wants to avoid.
Dundalk: Gabriel Sava; Sean Gannon (David McMillan 80), Paddy Barrett, Andy Boyle, Shane Grimes; Ronan Finn, Richie Towell (Chris Shields 75); John Mountney, Jake Kelly, Daryl Horgan (Ciaran O’Connor 63); Kurtis Byrne.
Subs not used: Gary Rogers (gk), David McMillan, Dane Massey, Georgie Poynton, Paul Finnegan.
Shelbourne: Greg Murray; Adam O’Connor (Darragh Gannon 78), Ryan Robinson, Sean Heaney; Colm Crowe, Daire Doyle, Craig Walsh (Jake Donnelly 62), Mark Sandford (Philip Hughes 71), Dylan McGlade; Alan O’Sullivan.
Subs not used: Eric Donnelly, Gareth Coughlan, Aaron Robinson, Alan Kehoe.
Booked: Donnelly (67).
Referee: Dave McKeon
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: John Mountney (Dundalk)