Two penalties from Chris Turner either side of a Darren Mansaram strike finally got Dundalk's season up and running as the Lilywhites recorded their first Premier Division win in almost seven years with a 3-0 defeat of near neighbours Drogheda United at Oriel Park on Friday night.
Dundalk suffered two 1-0 losses over the past fortnight but they quickly put Drogheda to the sword here, hitting the front just past the quarter-hour through Turner's penalty after visiting defender Conor Kenna handled inside the area. The hosts coasted from thereon, adding a controversial second on the stroke of half-time as Mansaram controlled with his hand before firing home, and they sealed the points shortly after the interval when Turner once again converted from the spot.
Drogheda started positively but their bright beginning was soon undone by Kenna's rush of blood as the ex-UCD defender diverted Harpal Singh's cross away from danger, handing Turner the opportunity to score the first competitive goal of Sean Connor's reign. The midfielder duly obliged, sending the ball low past Steve Williams. However, despite dominating, Dundalk had to wait until just before the break to double their advantage as Mansaram marked his full debut with a goal. Again it was Singh's delivery which caused problems, his cross evading Williams and falling to Mansaram who, after handling, finished to the net with ease.
If not already, the game was put beyond doubt on 48 minutes when Dundalk were awarded their second penalty of the night. This time the offender was Williams, who upended O'Brien as the former Drogheda captain attempted to round him after latching on to Alan McNally's backpass. Turner again stepped up and dispatched with aplomb, and it could have been worse for the United Park outfit had O'Brien's 45-yard effort found the net instead of the inside of the post. The win was Dundalk's first in the top flight since the day they were relegated, 31 March 2002, when they defeated Monaghan United 3-0.
Dundalk: Chris Bennion; Thomas Heary, Liam Burns (Michael McGinlay 50), Dave Rogers; Shaun Kelly, George O'Callaghan, Michael Daly (Dwight Barnett 82), Chris Turner, Harpal Singh; Darren Mansaram (Tiarnán Mulvenna 75), Declan O'Brien.
Subs not used: Ryan Coulter (GK), Mark Griffin.
Drogheda United: Steve Williams; Gavin Whelan, Alan McNally, Conor Kenna, Robbie Clarke; Jamie Duffy (Robbie Farrell 63), Mark Duggan (Brian King 53), Paul Shiels, James Chambers, Davie O'Connor (Ian Ryan 19); Robbie Martin.
Subs not used: Paul Skinner (GK), Mark Salmon.
Referee: Anthony Buttimer.
Extratime Man of the Match: George O'Callaghan (Dundalk).