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Niall Newberry reports from Oriel Park
Dundalk’s coronation as SSE Airtricity League champions took place at Oriel Park on Friday night as the Lilywhites held the trophy aloft following a ruthless 5-0 demolition of poor Sligo Rovers.
Patrick Hoban’s brace took his tally of league goals scored this season to 29, which added to John Mountney’s double and a Michael Duffy strike in what were celebratory scenes in the border town.
Stephen Kenny, who was taking charge of his 200th league fixture with Dundalk, made just one change from a club record 26th win of the season in Waterford last week.
Chris Shields, who was this week named Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Player of the Month, returned from suspension.
Much has changed in Sligo over the past week with the dismissal of Ger Lyttle and interim manager Brian Dorrian made four alterations, handing a first ever league start to 18-year-old Liam Kerrigan.
The champions made a bright start to this match and were awarded a penalty after just five minutes when Patrick McEleney skipped through a few Sligo players before being fouled by Kyle McFadden.
Hoban, normally deadly from the penalty spot, couldn’t add to the club record tally he’s scored this season due to a save from Edward McGinty, who diverted his effort onto the outside of the post.
Anxious to put that miss behind him, Hoban went close again moments later when Dean Jarvis’ corner was headed just over by the Loughrea man. That was after Duffy had a goal disallowed.
The hosts went ahead after nine minutes, when Ronan Murray’s ball over the top was well finished by Mountney, despite simultaneous attempted tackles from both McFadden and John Mahon.
McGinty endured a busy night between the sticks for Sligo and had to save with his feet from Murray’s attempt before denying the same player again, with the Bit O’Red hanging on at this point.
Dundalk doubled their advantage three minutes after the half-hour mark when Duffy weaved his magic down the left before finishing low into the bottom corner with McGinty rooted to his spot.
The Lilywhites were on fire at this stage and they made it three when Jarvis floated in a cross from the left which was met by a looping header from Mountney four minutes before the half-time break.
Hoban almost atoned for his earlier miss ten minutes after the restart when McFadden, who had an otherwise forgettable night, cleared off the line when the Dundalk striker looked destined to score.
Rob Rogers awarded the home side a second penalty when substitute Niall Morahan was adjudged to have fouled Sean Gannon and Hoban made no mistake, this time sending McGinty the wrong way.
Hoban soon got his second and Dundalk’s fifth when substitute Dylan Connolly’s cross from the right evaded the Sligo defence and McGinty, allowing the league’s top scorer to tap into an empty net.
Sligo could have restored some pride when Lee-J Lynch hit the bar after catching Gary Rogers out from distance before Lewis Morrison missed an open goal late on when it looked easier to score.
Not content with breaking a record for goals scored in a single campaign last week, this win means that Dundalk have now also recorded more points than any other team in League of Ireland history.
It’s testament to Kenny that, despite losing players such as Andy Boyle, Daryl Horgan and Richie Towell over time, this has been the most comprehensive of his four title wins as Dundalk manager.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Sean Hoare, Dean Jarvis; Chris Shields (Dane Massey 77), Patrick McEleney; John Mountney (Dylan Connolly 46), Ronan Murray (Jamie McGrath 63), Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban.
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (gk), Daniel Cleary, George Poynton, Georgie Kelly.
Booked: Brian Gartland (61 ).
Sligo Rovers: Edward McGinty; Kyle McFadden, John Mahon, Seamus Sharkey, Adam Wixted (Niall Morahan 46); Liam Kerrigan (Darren Collins 74), Lee-J Lynch, Jack Keaney (Lewis Morrison 65), Rhys McCabe, Kris Twardek; Michael Drennan.
Subs not used: Mitchell Beeney (gk), Regan Donelon, David Cawley.
Booked: Jack Keaney (58).
Referee: Rob Rogers.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Patrick Hoban (Dundalk).