It was Dundalk who claimed an FAI Ford Cup quarter-final berth as they overcame the challenge of Limerick on a scoreline of 5-3 at Oriel Park in what was a thoroughly entertaining encounter.
Goals in the first-half from Stephen O’Donnell, Richie Towell, Darren Meenan and a brace from Kurtis Byrne secured Dundalk’s place in the last 8 while Axel Bossekota’s effort and a brace from Rory Gaffney wasn’t enough for the Munstermen in what proved to be a goal fest in county Louth.
Dundalk made two changes from the side which defeated Sligo Rovers last week as John Sullivan came in for the injured Brian Gartland and Chris Shields, who has impressed in recent weeks, came in for John Dillon who dropped to the bench.
For Limerick there were three changes with Robbie Williams and Rory Gaffney coming in for the suspended Patrick Nzuzi and Craig Curran while Darragh Rainsford came in for Stephen Bradley who dropped to the bench.
It was the hosts who started the better and after just 3 minutes when Darren Meenan’s corner found Dane Massey but his header was somehow cleared brilliantly off the line by Darragh Rainsford.
The Lilywhites continued to press and after six minutes they were awarded a penalty. The now trademark Darren Meenan delivery to the centre of the box caused havoc and led to Limerick’s Robbie Williams hauling down Pat Hoban leaving referee Anthony Buttimer no option but to point to the spot.
Up stepped captain Stephen O’Donnell who coolly dispatched the penalty to the bottom corner sending goalkeeper Barry Ryan the wrong way. The goal appeared to settle Limerick and they set off to get an equaliser. Rory Gaffney knocked the ball down to Axel Bossekota on 11 minutes but his shot was comfortable for Peter Cherrie in the Dundalk goal but they duly got their goal on 16 minutes when Dave O’Leary’s free-kick found the head of Bossekota and he powered the ball to the net from 8 yards.
That goal appeared to give some life to Dundalk this time and O’Donnell hit a powerful drive from distance which whistled over Ryan’s crossbar then Massey’s cross fell to Richie Towell but his tame effort was blocked down.
Towell wouldn’t have to wait long for his goal though and on 22 minutes he struck to the net with what was a wonderful team effort. The move started with Mark Rossiter at the back and finds Towell who moves it to Kurtis Byrne. The former Ross County star’s beautiful flick fed it back to Towell and the ex-Hibernian starlet hit a sublime curling effort to the net.
The third goal of the game appeared to settle play down although yet another brilliant Dundalk move could have yielded a fourth. Some wonderful interchange in midfield from Towell and Hoban released John Sullivan on the right hand side who crossed for Hoban and the July Player of the Month tried another spectacular overhead kick although this time his effort was well wide of the target.
The Lilywhites didn’t have to wait long for a third when Towell was fouled in a central position 25 yards from goal by Williams. Kurtis Byrne took the resulting free-kick and his strike flew past the wall and the outstretched arm of Ryan to make it 3-1.
The first-half petered out with no real action after the third goal and Dundalk went in deservedly in front at half-time.
The second-half began in the same style as the first with Dundalk on the attack and after a Meenan cross, O’Donnell headed just over Ryan’s goal. Byrne then tried his luck with another free-kick but this time it went just inches wide of the right hand post into the side netting.
Dundalk made it four just before the hour mark when Towell’s low free-kick could only be parried by Ryan and the ball fell to Meenan who thundered the ball to the net from close range. Five minutes later, it was 4-2.
A great move from the Shannonsiders saw the ball find Danny Galbraith and his excellent ball took out the entire Dundalk defence leaving Rory Gaffney free to curl the ball home, clipping the inside of the left hand post in the process.
The Lilywhites didn’t let the goal set them back and immediately set about restoring their three goal advantage and they duly did so with just 25 minutes remaining when another sweeping move released Sullivan on the right hand side and his lobbed cross deceived Stephen Folan which left Byrne ready to collect and he made no mistake by finishing to the net, after some neat trickery.
It could have been six on 71 minutes when Hoban won a corner and from Meenan’s resulting kick, found the former Mervue United star’s head but his diving effort went just wide of the post.
Limerick once again threw themselves another lifeline when O’Leary’s long range strike appeared to be heading over the bar only for it to crash off the crossbar and fall to Gaffney who finished the ball to the empty net.
It looked as though it the Blues would get a fourth goal when Gaffney did indeed finish to the net for what appeared to be a hat-trick however the youngster received a second yellow card for a handball spotted by referee Buttimer.
Substitute Tiarnan Mulvenna had a good effort saved by Ryan while Galbraith hit a wonderful shot from 25 yards which had Cherrie scrambling but went just over his crossbar.
That proved to be the final action of the match as the Lilywhites good form continued and they advance to the quarter-finals of the 2013 FAI Cup.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; John Sullivan, Mark Rossiter, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey (John Dillon 79); Richie Towell, Chris Shields; Darren Meenan(Tiarnan Mulvenna 80), Stephen O’Donnell (c) (Vinny Faherty 87), Kurtis Byrne; Pat Hoban.
Subs not used: Simon Kelly, Jordan Keegan, Francis McCaffrey, Aaron Shanahan (GK).
Booked: Meenan (5), Byrne (70).
Limerick FC: Barry Ryan; Shaun Kelly, Stephen Folan, Robbie Williams, Shane Costelloe (Colm Murphy 57); Darragh Rainsford, Joe Gamble (c), Dave O’Leary, Danny Galbraith; Rory Gaffney, Axel Bossekota (Barry Sheedy 61).
Subs not used: Tony Whitehead, Stephen Bradley, Carel Tiofack, Jason Hughes, Shane Cusack (GK).
Booked: Costelloe (29), Gaffney (34).
Sent off: Gaffney (77).
Referee: Anthony Buttimer.
Extratime.ie man of the match: Richie Towell (Dundalk).