Niall Newberry reports from Oriel Park
Dundalk secured their passage into the second round of the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup on Friday night with a comfortable 3-0 win over First Division outfit Cobh Ramblers at Oriel Park.
Two goals by Ronan Murray as well as a Jamie McGrath strike ensured that Dundalk inflicted sweet revenge on the same team that knocked them out of the EA Sports Cup just four days prior, in what was a major upset that sent shockwaves throughout the League of Ireland.
However, lightning wasn’t to strike twice as the Lilywhites made eight changes from that shock defeat, with Georgie Kelly making his first start for the club since signing from UCD last month.
Cobh themselves were forced into one change from what was a famous victory for them with goalscoring hero Chris Hull, who withdrew from the squad at the last minute due to illness, being replaced by Jaze Kabia.
The hosts – overwhelming favourites to exorcise the ghosts from four days ago – created the first chance of the night, when some good work down the right by McGrath saw him cross for Michael Duffy. His effort from close range was excellently saved by the feet of Adam Mylod.
The side currently eighth in the First Division were brimming with confidence and had chances of their own early on with Kabia unleashing a shot which Gary Rogers rather unconvincingly flapped at.
That was before skipper Shane O’Connor found himself unchallenged, in acres of space before firing a shot that curled inches wide of the top corner. Dundalk – at this point – looked every bit as lacklustre as they had in their League Cup defeat earlier in the week despite the wholesale changes.
The Lilywhites though did began to settle into the game after that and defender Daniel Cleary saw his header easily saved by Mylod before Kelly’s effort trickled agonisingly wide of the post after what was a beautiful through ball from Michael Duffy as the Dundalk’s frustrations grew.
Those frustrations were put to bed just past the half-hour mark however, when a sublime ball over the top by Robbie Benson found its way to Duffy. His cross from the left was turned home by Murray as a huge sigh of relief echoed around Oriel Park.
Former UCD forward Kelly cut a pretty isolated figure for much of what was his first start for his new club, but he really should’ve doubled Dundalk’s advantage five minutes before half-time. He fired over after some wonderful football involving both McGrath and Murray.
The Lilywhites wouldn’t have to wait too long for that second goal though and it came seven minutes after the restart. A Dean Jarvis cross from the left found its way to McGrath inside the box, and he seemed to take an age before expertly slotting home to make it two-nil.
Cobh, to their credit, never gave up and almost got themselves back in the match when Denzil Fernandes fired a powerful shot from the right that had to be well saved by Rogers.
At the other end, Mylod – currently deputising for the unavailable Paul Hunt – had a busy night in goal for the visitors and he had to make two saves in quick succession from McGrath and then substitute Dylan Connolly with about 20 minutes to play.
Dundalk’s passage into next Monday’s second round draw was made safe five minutes from time when Connolly’s low cross from the right was turned home by Murray, who capped off a fine display with what was his second goal of the night.
Indeed, it could have been worse for Cobh after another Connolly cross was almost diverted into his own net by the head of James McSweeney late on.
Attention now turns back to the upcoming EA Sports Cup final for Stephen Henderson’s side while for Stephen Kenny and Dundalk, their dreams of a league and cup double remain very much alive.
Dundalk:Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Daniel Cleary, Dean Jarvis; Karolis Chvedukas, Robbie Benson (Dane Massey 58); Jamie McGrath, Ronan Murray, Michael Duffy (Dylan Connolly 69); Georgie Kelly (Sam Byrne 76).
Subs not used:Gabriel Sava, George Poynton, Chris Shields, Patrick Hoban.
Cobh Ramblers:Adam Mylod; Kevin Taylor, Gordon Walker, James McSweeney, Ian Mylod; Denzil Fernandes, Shane O’Connor, Ben O’Riordan (Craig Donnellan 74), Stephen Cristopher (Stephen Kenny 67); Jaze Kabia, David Hurley (Cian Leonard 61).
Subs not used:Charlie Fleming, Matthew Lambe, Liam Cronin.
Booked:Ian Mylod (33)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Ronan Murray (Dundalk)