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The rain lashed down on Oriel as Dundalk and Sligo Rovers locked horns for the second time in less than a week. The Lilywhites brushed the Bit O’ Red aside in a 4-0 win in this quarter final tie.
Both sides arrived desperate for a victory Dundalk to continue their quest for a potential double this season, while Rovers saw the game as an opportunity to take a break from their league troubles. Inspired by their recent performance against the current champions, Micky Adams’ men set about Dundalk from the start. With only two changes to the Sligo team- the returning John Russell replaced Jason Hughes, while Raff Cretaro took the place of Morten Nielsen while Stephen Kenny named an unchanged line-up.
The scene was set for a similar encounter to the riproaring exhibition we witnessed last week, however, it wasn’t to be. While Sligo native, WB Yeats, once penned “All’s changed, changed utterly – a terrible beauty is born”, there was nothing beautiful to be seen through the cascading rain of the first half. The silky passing of last week was replaced by attempted counter attacks from the home team as Sligo Rovers muddled around the middle. There were several opportunities with Regan Donelon, Raff Cretaro and John Russell all failing to test Gary Rogers while Ronan Finn and Daryl Horgan at least tested the quality of latex on Richard Brush’s palms and Richie Towell drove wide.
Chris Shields provided a very effective screen in the first half with several decisive interceptions while Meenan, Towell and Finn linked up well on the wing. So well, in fact, that Sligo were forced to adopt a similar tactic to last week with Myrie Williams swapping sides to counter Dundalk’s attacking potential down the right hand side. For the visitors themselves, John Russell added an element of composure to the middle and was central to many of Sligo’s attempted forays forward.
The second half was ten minutes old when Meenan attempted to pick out Kilduff, the cross was deflected and Daryl Horgan lashed a volley that almost landed in the chip van parked in the corner of the ground. However, he reset his sights a minute later and produced some Galwegian magic when he latched onto a loose ball in midfield and curled a peach of a shot past Richard Brush – more Abracadabra than Abrakebabra this time.
Dundalk were now piling on the pressure with a point blank save from Brush preventing a second following a header from a Meenan free kick moments later. Meenan was to get his assist though when Kilduff deftly flicked a wicked dead ball delivery from the winger into the Sligo net in the 63rd minute to score one of the best goals seen in Oriel Park this season.
To be fair to Sligo, their rearguard had to be rearranged just prior to the free kick following an injury to Tim Clancy which resulted in a double substitution and the relocation of Alan Keane to centre back, with Gary Boylan shifting to right back.
Dundalk showed no mercy and continued pressing; with Towell missing two good opportunities to extend the lead and Meenan curling a free kick straight at the over worked Brush. It was another set piece which caught out the Sligo defence when Towell played a quick free kick to Ronan Finn who caressed the ball beyond Brush’s outstretched left hand – a similar combination created Finn’s opening goal last week.
At 3-0, Sligo still had opportunities to cut the lead and Gary Rogers had to fling himself low to his right following a scramble in the Dundalk penalty area. Jennison Myrie Williams was quiet throughout the second half but was made aware he was in a game when he was clattered into by Shields in the 80th minute.
Two minutes later, Ciarán Kilduff played Daryl Horgan through but, having rounded Richard Brush, he shot wide. The Kilcock native was subbed to a standing ovation minutes later – in fact all three Dundalk substitutes left the pitch to the same rapturous response from the crowd.
Kilduff’s replacement, Seán Maguire – fresh from international duty – didn’t take long to make an impact. He coolly placed the ball past the overworked Bit O’Red netminder after latching onto a Ronan Finn flick on and thus making it 4-0 to the hosts.
The striker wasn’t finished there though, crashing a header off the crossbar after another excellent Meenan cross. Sligo had one final effort blocked as referee Tomás Connolly blew the final whistle and the Lilywhites cruised through to the semi finals of the Daily Mail FAI Cup. For Micky Adams, it’s back to reality with their league relegation battle and a home game against Bray Wanderers to come next week, while Stephen Kenny awaits the semi final draw on Monday with an air of satisfaction following tonight’s comprehensive victory.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers, Seán Gannon (Paddy Barrett 81), Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle (C), Dane Massey, Chris Shields, Daryl Horgan, Ronan Finn, Richie Towell (John Mountney 77), Darren Meenan, CiaránKilduff (Seán Maguire 86).
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava, Shane Grimes, Kurtis Byrne, David McMillan.
Booked: Boyle (4).
Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush, Alan Keane, Gavin Peers (C), Tim Clancy (Morten Nielsen 61), David Cawley, Dinny Corcoran (Anthony Elding 61), RaffaeleCretaro (Rob Lehane 72), Gary Boylan, John Russell, Regan Donelon, Jennison Myrie Williams.
Subs not used: Ryan Coulter, Ruairí Keating, Keith Ward, Jason Hughes.
Booked: Russell (64) Peers (70).
Referee: Tomás Connolly.
Extra Time Man of the Match: Chris Shields (Dundalk FC).