A dominant Drogheda United ran out 6-0 victors over Athlone Town at United Park on Sunday afternoon thanks to a brace from Mark Doyle as well as goals from Jake Hyland, Colm Deasy and Ciaran Kelly along with a Mark Walshe own goal.
Drogheda started off on the front foot from the off as two minutes in Deasy played a cross to the near post towards Lyons. However, the ball was just too high for the forward, fell to Doyle before falling into the path of Sean Brennan who saw his low effort save by Nathan Murphy.
A minute later, a scramble in Athlone’s box eventually saw the ball drop to the feet of Hyland. The Drogheda captain let fly but his effort was blocked.
Chris Lyons picked the ball up, made space and shot but Murphy saved low to his right. The ball fell into the path of Duffy from that Murphy save but the Drogheda winger dragged his shot wide of the far post.
Hyland did have the ball in the net on four minutes, but the whistle had already been blown for a foul. However, it wouldn’t take him much longer to find his goal.
Five minutes later, Deasy’s ball found Hyland, he played a one-two with Lyons, switched the ball onto his left and struck, with his effort finding the back of the net via a deflection.
Ten minutes later, Brennan almost double Drogheda’s lead after being found by Deasy’s quick throw in but like Duffy earlier, he dragged his shot wide of the far post.
Athlone’s first chance of the game came on 21 minutes as they were awarded a free kick. Josh Hogan delivered towards Cormac Raftery who headed goalwards but the last touch, from a Drogheda player, meant the ball went out for a corner.
After that chance, Drogheda’s pressure resumed as Duffy’s low ball across the box almost resulted in goalkeeper Murphy parrying it into his own net, only for a defender to clear the ball off the line and out for a corner.
A minute later, after that corner had been cleared, Drogheda sent the ball back into the box, it fell for the unmarked Doyle, but he couldn’t keep the effort down and the ball landed on the roof of the net.
Drogheda’s next chance came on the half hour as Brennan played a free kick to the far side of the box to Hyland, he controlled, brought the ball to the line and crossed for Farragher who headed narrowly wide of the far post.
Athlone then had two chances in as many minutes as first, Josh Hogan’s fired a free kick over the bar, before they were awarded another free kick three minutes later.
That free kick, taken by Mustapha, hit the Drogheda wall before bouncing narrowly wide of Skinner’s far post.
Drogheda countered from the resultant corner as Deasy released Duffy who crosses for Lyons, but the forward was denied by a brilliant goal saving tackle by an Athlone defender.
The home side eventually found a second, just before the break as Brennan played a free kick to Duffy, who had his first shot blocked but the ball fell back to him. He then proceeded to play a low ball across the box, which hit off Martin Walshe who sent the ball into his own net.
Drogheda started the second half as they ended the first, making it 3-0 just three minutes into the second period as Sean Brennan’s corner was flicked on by Kelly and headed home by Doyle.
The Boynesiders made it 4-0 on 56 minutes with the best goal of the game as Farragher’s ball over the top found right-back Deasy as the furthest player forward. Deasy held his nerve and finished superbly, lobbing the ball over Murphy.
It was 5-0 just two minutes later as Farragher grabbed his second assist, again sending a ball over the top, this time to Doyle, who lifted the ball over Murphy, who despite getting a hand to the ball, couldn’t keep it out.
The home side had chance to get a sixth as Duffy was again denied by Murphy after Hyland had squared the ball to him. Then, three minutes later, Hyland played a ball to McCaffrey who fired into the side netting.
Two minutes later and it was more frustration for Duffy as free on the right, he found space in the box, opted to shoot and was again denied by Murphy.
Drogheda did find a sixth with their last chance of the game as Richie Purdy’s corner was headed home by Ciaran Kelly as Tim Clancy side got their season to a dream start.
Drogheda United: Paul Skinner; Colm Deasy (Lloyd Buckley 76’), Kevin Farragher, Ciaran Kelly, Conor Kane; Luke Gallagher, Sean Brennan (Richie Purdy 61’); Lee Duffy, Jake Hyland (C), Mark Doyle (Gareth McCaffrey 68’); Chris Lyons.
Unused Subs: Luca Gratzer(GK), Kealan Dillon, Luke Rossiter, Stephen Meaney.
Athlone Town: Nathan Murphy; Aaron Brilly, Daniel O’Donovan, Cormac Raftery, Craig Short; Jake O’Connor, Ian Fletcher, Josh Hogan (Darren Kavanagh 63’); Martin Walshe (Ryan Gaffey 49’), Rory McCullough, Shane Stokes (Tzee Mustapha 10’).
Unused Subs: Sean O’Donnell (GK), Aaron Williams, Stephen Grogan, Felix Bape Perez.
Booked: Martin Walshe (28’), Josh Hogan (53’), Ryan Gaffey (80’)
Referee: Damien McGraith.
Attendance: 350 (est).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Jake Hyland (Drogheda United).