BREAKING: Dundalk break points record with Sligo thrashing
Match report by Kieran Burke - @KieranBTS
A guard of honor welcomed Dundalk onto the field for the final time at Oriel Park this season as Sligo Rovers attempted to play the role of party intruders against the newly crowned champions. However, it was quite clear very early on in this one that Stephen Kenny’s men had no intentions of failing in their bid to break the all-time points haul in a League of Ireland campaign. Bohemians 2008 title winners set the target of 85 points and the “Town” set about moving onto 86 points when Patrick McEleney won the “Lilywhites” a spot-kick just four-minutes in to proceedings at the County Louth venue. The former Derry mans amazing footwork in the lead up to the penalty award was sadly and surprisingly not matched by Patrick Hoban’s finish, as the leagues top scorer this season could only find the finger-tips of Sligo ‘keeper Ed McGinty, who tipped Hoban’s effort onto the post in superb flying fashion.
Just seconds later and the Dundalk faithful were on their feet again as Michael Duffy stuck the ball past McGinty but this time the Sligo native was saved by a controversial linesman’s flag. This was a flying start by the champions and Hoban looked set to move onto 28 league goals for the season when he got his head on a couple of pacey crosses from wide but on both occasions the Galway man headed narrowly over.
Sligo were struggling to find a way out of their own half following Dundalk’s blistering start and it must be remembered the size of the task for the “Bit O’Red” given the departure of manager Ger Lyttle earlier this week. Brian Dorrian, the club’s under-19’s boss, was the man on the sideline at Oriel on Friday night and it was the pace of Kris Twardek and Mikey Drennan that offered the rookie manager his strongest hope against the odds.
However, any hope of weathering the early Dundalk storm soon evaporated when John Mountney latched onto a clever Ronan Murray pass before scooping the ball over a helpless McGinty after nine-minutes.
A rare opportunity for the visitors to release the pressure came about on twelve minutes but Twardek wasted the Sligo free-kick from wide with a well over-hit cross. Sean Gannon headed a dangerous looking cross away at the back post soon after but bar a rare mistake from Brian Gartland, which almost allowed Lee J Lynch in behind, this was as easy as easy could be for the dominant “Lilywhites”.
It was clear from early on that local lad, Ed McGinty was going to be extremely busy for manager-less Sligo and the “Bit O’Red” ‘keeper made a superb double save to deny McEleney and then Murray from doubling the lead on the quarter-hour mark.
The half-hour mark was the next target for Sligo’s shaky looking back four to reach without receiving any more Dundalk damage but just three-minutes before that point it was 2-0 as Michael Duffy cut inside before arrowing a shot past McGinty at the near-post.
Could Sligo keep the game alive before the break? Sadly not for their small band of suffering supporters as on forty-one-minutes John Mountney beat Adam Wixted in the air and his headed effort again floated over the out-stretched hands of McGinty. It was quite a sickening clash of heads and resulted in both Mountney and Wixted being replaced at half-time.
Hoban and Dundalk continued their hunt for history as the second-half played out along the same lines of the first period and again the “Hobanator” was denied when his effort from inside the area was cleared off the line. However, the most in-form Irish striker around was not to be denied on the hour-mark as he stuck a spot-kick past McGinty. The champions latest twelve-yard effort came after Sean Gannon went down inside the area, having cut in from the outside right position. A soft penalty to give away it must be said.
There was no stopping the former Oxford striker now and on sixty-five he made it FIVE NIL to Dundalk with Dylan Connolly the assist maker after his run and cross in front of the Oriel Park stand. Like Hoban, Connolly was full of confidence now as he continued to dart past his marker.
Should Hoban not break the 30 goal mark this season he will look back on this encounter with Sligo in great anger. The Dundalk number nine could’ve had a treble of headed goals alone as on seventy-eight-minutes he again nudged his effort slightly too high, again it was Connolly setting the attack up with a cross from wide.
Sligo could’ve had one back moments before that Hoban chance and it would've been a goal of the season contender as Lynch attempted to chip Gary Rogers from half-way but his effort unluckily came back off the Oriel Park crossbar.
It was always going to take something out of the ordinary for Sligo to take anything away from the home of the champions but Dundalk were giving nothing for free despite the celebratory mood around Oriel Park. In fact, Dundalk were not content with what they already had and it was almost six only for snother stunning McGinty save, this time off a Dane Massey volley, while Hoban found the outside of the net as opposed to the inside of the post as he searched for a hat-trick.
Sligo had the chance to add some sort of respectability to the scoreline with the final passage of play but a missed open goal chance summed up a dismal night for crisis club Sligo, who had to sit back and watch as Dundalk’s players claimed the 2018 SSE Airtricity League title and with a record points tally to boot!