League of Ireland round-up: Dundalk get back to winning ways
Meanwhile there was a win for St Pat’s while Bray hammered Finn Harps in Ballybofey
Dundalk’s Jamie McGrath bagged a hat-trick in their win over Sligo. Photo: Inpho
Dundalk 4 Sligo Rovers 0
Jamie McGrath netted a hat-trick as Dundalk made up some ground on leaders Cork City with a confident second-half display against Sligo Rovers on Friday night.
Losses to Galway United and Shamrock Rovers left Stephen Kenny’s men third, one point behind second-placed Bray Wanderers and 15 points adrift of leaders Cork City before kick-off. However, the gap has been reduced to 13 after the Leesiders’ draw in Galway.
A poor first-half ended with both goalkeepers enjoying one of their most comfortable nights of the season.
Dundalk, who welcomed Robbie Benson back from a hamstring tear which kept him sidelined for seven weeks, knocked it around with intent in the opening period but lacked a cutting edge in the final third.
Micheal Schlingermann dealt comfortably with a David McMillan effort after 19 minutes and Michael Duffy scuffed the best opening of the half across the face of the Sligo goal just before the break.
Sligo kept their shape well and proved very difficult to break down but they posed little threat in attack. Their brightest moment came in the 27th minute when Liam Martin combined well with Kieran Sadlier on the left but his low cross went behind Jonah Ayunga at the near post.
Dundalk opened the second-half with intent and McGrath and Shields both went close before the former St Patrick’s Athletic star broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute, slipping the ball through Schlingermann’s legs.
His second arrived with 18 minutes to go. Duffy was the creator, turning on the accelerator to burst down the right before slowing up and picking out McGrath who rifled his effort under Schlingermann.
Niclas Vemmelund grabbed the third when he bundled the ball home and McGrath put the cap on a fine display when he converted a penalty in stoppage time.
DUNDALK: Rogers; Vemmelund, Hoare, Barrett, Massey; Shields, Benson (Benson 88); Duffy, McEleney (O’Donnell 84), McGrath; McMillan (Kilduff 79).
SLIGO ROVERS: Schlingermann; Adebayo Rowling, Leahy, Callan McFadden, Donelan; Sadlier, Russell (Stevens 78), Boylan, Martin (Place 85); Cretaro, Ayunga (Roddan 59).
Referee: Graham Kelly.
St Patrick’s Athletic 2 Drogheda United 0
Kurtis Byrne was on target for the third successive match to earn St Pat’s a first win in six games, lifting them off the bottom and out of the relegation zone up to eighth place in the Premier Division table.
Welcome rain added pace to the surface with St Pat’s starting purposefully to go on and dominate the first half.
Christy Fagan fired wide from a Kurtis Byrne pull back before Liam Buckley’s side were deservedly in front on seven minutes.
Conan Byrne’s free kick from the right found the run of left-back Ian Bermingham, ghosting in on the far side, and the skipper planted his low left foot shot past keeper Stephen McGuinness for a well-taken first goal of the season.
Their high tempo unrelenting, St Pat’s got well on top with Conan Byrne shooting wide before McGuinness saved well from Darragh Markey’s drive.
The oneway traffic continued with Fagan twice off target either side of McGuinness getting down well to save a drive from Kurtis Byrne.
And McGuinness was there again with the stop of the half right on the break when pushing Kurtis Byrne’s drive over the top.
But McGuinness was beaten for a second time two minutes after the interval.
The impressive 19-year-old Markey skilfully beat a man on the left to weight a sublime ball through for Kurtis Byrne who swept home off his right foot.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: O’Malley; Barker, Peers, Feely, Bermingham; Desmond, Kelly (Cregg, 79); C. Byrne (A. O’Hanlon, 40), Markey, K. Byrne; Fagan (B. Dennehy, 86).
DROGHEDA UNITED: McGuinness; Elworthy, Gallagher, McGuigan, Kane; Byrne (Dunne, 88), Purdy, K. Brennan (S. Brennan, 69), McCaffrey (Doyle, 70); Hyland; Griffin.
Referee: Anthony Buttimer (Cork).
Finn Harps 0 Bray Wanderers 3
High-flying Bray Wanderers maintained their good form with a 3-0 success at Finn Park over a Finn Harps side that have now slumped to four defeats on the trot and drop to bottom spot.
Bray got off to a great start when the in-form Gary McCabe – with his 12th league goal of the season – fired them ahead with a cracking shot from 25 yards that flew past the despairing Ciaran Gallagher.
Harps responded positively with a series of corners and Mark Salmon did well to clear a Kilian Cantwell off the line.
The home side continued to press with Peter Cherrie much the busier of the goalkeepers and he did well to get down and block a Gareth Harkin shot on 31 minutes.
McCabe, though, always looked menacing going forward for Bray from midfield and the visitors made it 2-0 on 41 minutes.
Harps lost possession just inside their own half and Ryan Brennan strode towards goal before unleashing a super shot that squeezed inside the post.
Tempers boiled over just before the break as Ciaran O’Connor got booked for a challenge on John Sullivan who hobbled off injured and who had to be replaced by Anto Flood.
Determined Harps never stopped battling after the break and will feel that they did not get the rub of the green at times in a competitive affair littered with robust challenges and yellow cards.
Harps best chance in the second half was an O’Connor strike that dipped just over the crossbar.
Aaron Greene wrapped it up with a super third goal on 80 minutes as he cut through the Harps defence before firing through the legs of Gallagher.
Prior to the game there was a minute’s applause in memory of former Sligo Rovers, Finn Harps and Derry City player Eunan Blake, who died during the week.
FINN HARPS: Gallagher; Boyle, Cantwell, McNulty, Coll; McAleer, Molloy, McCourt, Harkin; Houston, O’Connor. Subs: Morrissey for Harkin (63 mins), Funston for McNulty (78 mins), McGLynn for McCourt (81 mins).
BRAY WANDERERS: Cherrie; Buckley, Clancy, Kenna, Moore; Sullivan; Brennan, Salmon, McCabe, Connolly; Greene. Subs; Flood for Sullivan (41 mins), Aherne for McCabe (85 mins).
Referee: D. Tomney (Dublin).