Dundalk 4 Sligo Rovers 0
A second half performance they'll do well to match over what remains of this season edged Dundalk a little closer to the club's third ever league and cup double last night at Oriel Park. Having struggled for almost an hour to make the breakthrough, the league leaders simply swept Micky Adams' side away during the last half an hour with the quality of the goals scored by Daryl Horgan, Ciaran Kilduff, Ronan Finn and Sean Maguire doing as much to lift local spirits as the overall performance on what had seemed miserable evening for a cup quarter-final.
Rovers had come here a week ago and boosted the belief that they can avoid the drop by scoring twice and earning a point at a ground where few do either these days. This time, though, they were a distant second best from start to finish and the players looked almost relieved at the final whistle that the almost relentless battering they had subjected to was finally at an end.
Kilduff’s goal, a wonderful back heel flick that turned Darren Meenan’s free kick home was the pick of the bunch but Horgan’s was the most important in that it ended any hope that the visitors might somehow scrape through and take the tie back to the Showgrounds.
Meenan and Horgan dominated the Rovers full-backs from the outset while Ronan Finn and Richie Towel created a succession of half chances from around the edge of the area. Still, for all their superiority, Stephen Kenny's men did little enough really to test Richard Brush before the opener.
After it, there was no way back for Sligo. Adams was forced into a switch when Tim Clancy was injured and with little by way of defensive cover on the bench, he went for broke, bringing on both Anthony Elding and and Morten Nielsen in the hope of getting at the Dundalk defence.
It simply never happened though, with the hosts tightening their grip on midfield and increasingly running Rovers ragged around their own area. Finn's goal involved a lovely curling shot after a terrific turn while Maguire got onto the end of a flicked header by the former Shamrock Rovers man to fire home number four with virtually his first touch after coming on.
"It's been said about us that we have a lot of goals in the squad and I was delighted for the lads who scored tonight, particularly Sean Maguire coming on and getting his goal," said Chris Shields who was named Man of the Match afterwards. "I'll take the slagging (for not scoring) as long as the lads keep putting the ball in the back of the net. I'll keep doing what I'm doing. It was a great end to the game and a great win but Stephen (Kenny) will calm us down and we'll be ready for the Drogheda game when it comes around next week."
Sure enough Kenny was on hand to put things, he suggested, in perspective. “It was a very good performance,” said the manager. “The first half I thought we played well as well we just didn’t get our reward. But in the second half we produced a lot of very free flowing and they were all exceptional goals.
“It’s not worth three points, though,” he continued. “All it does is get you into the next round and if we get knocked out in the semi-finals that performance will be forgotten.”
Not for a while, one suspects, by those home supporters who witnessed it.
Dundalk: Rogers; Gannon (Barrett, 81 mins), Gartland, Boyle, Massey; Shields; Meenan, Towell (Mountney, 78 mins), Finn, Horgan; Kilduff (Maguire, 86 mins).
Sligo Rovers: Brush; Keane, Peers, Clancy (Nielsen, 61 mins), Donelon; Boylan, Cawley; Myrie-Williams, Russell, Cretaro (Lehane, 73 mins); Corcoran (Elding, 61 mins).
Referee: T Connolly (Dublin).