Steven Bradley of Dundalk in action against Finn Harps player Rob Slevin, Regan Donelon and Liam McGing. Photo: George Tewkesbury/Sportsfile
A trio of first-half goals saw Dundalk sweep aside Finn Harps at Oriel Park on Friday night.
Finn Harps 0
Darragh Leahy, Keith Ward and Steven Bradley scored the goals as the Lilywhites won with ease.
When Bradley struck a brilliant third nine minutes before half-time, Harps might’ve feared a complete annihilation.
In front of a crowd of 2,016, it might well have been, but Dundalk didn’t add to the scoreline despite having several chances to pile further miser on Harps. With Shelbourne winning 2-0 at UCD, Harps remain in the play-off spot, with a a better goal difference than the Students.
Dundalk roared into a 2-0 lead by the sixth minute and, even at that early juncture, the fear among the couple-of-dozen Harps supporters on the terrace at the Carrick Road was about how many their side would ship.
Leahy fired in a fourth-minute opener, lashing high into the net after Bradley’s shot was blocked.
Harps were still shaking their heads clear when Dundalk doubled the lead with a breakaway goal.
Bradley broke away down the right-hand side and unselfishly squared for Ward, who tucked home in style.
Dundalk began with real purpose against a Harps side bearing scars obvious for a side that had claimed only two points from their last ten outings. Mark Anthony McGinley had to get down to his right to parry away Leahy’s low shot after Ward cut Harps open.
On 36 minutes, it was three-nil. Bradley, recalled to the Dundalk’ XI along with Paul Doyle, came in from the right-hand side. With some room, Bradley let fly with a stunning strike that gave McGinley little chance. The ball flew into the Town End net and Dundalk were now firmly on their way back to second spot.
It took some time for the third to arrive, but it had always looked likely.
Pat Hoban rolled narrowly wide after combining with Keith Ward while Conor Tourish got his head in the way of a Daniel Kelly shot as Dundalk dominated.
At the other end, Dundalk did have a couple of scares. Rob Jones - who netted his first Harps goal in last Sunday’s derby defeat to Derry City - flicked a header over the top after Ethan Boyle picked him out.
While Ryan Rainey forced Peter Cherrie into parrying a firmly-hit effort from 20 yards in the 23rd minute, it was a fleeting moment for Harps in the final third.
Australian defender Liam McGing was given a first Harps start with Filip Mihaljevic also included with Harry Nicolson and Elie Nzeyi making way as Horgan altered things following a 2-1 defeat by Derry.
Dundalk confirmed the departure of Mark Connolly around an hour before kick-off, the defender who was the League’s Player of the Month in June having been recalled from his loan spell by Dundee United.
Stephen O’Donnell’s team almost added to their tally, but Ward’s curler cannoned back off the inside of the far post after Kelly got ahead of McGinley in a chase for possession. On the hour, Pat Hoban nodded wide from a Bradley cross with the hosts - who had lost just once in their previous 21 meetings with Harps - in control.
At the other end, Cherrie saved from Conor Tourish when the Letterkenny man got on the end of Regan Donelon’s free-kick.
Dundalk went for more, but Bradley shot wide and Leahy headed over when well placed.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Lewis Macari (John Mountney 76), Andy Boyle, Paul Doyle, Darragh Leahy; Sam Bone, Greg Sloggett; Steven Bradley (David McMillan 84), Keith Ward (Joe Adams 66), Daniel Kelly (Ryan O’Kane); Pat Hoban (John Martin 76).
Finn Harps: Mark Anthony McGinley; Ethan Boyle, Conor Tourish, Liam McGing, Rob Slevin, Regan Donelon (Dylan Duncan 74); Ryan Rainey (Harry Nicolson 65), Ryan Connolly, Barry McNamee (Mark Timlin 65); Filip Mihaljevic; Robert Jones (José Carrillo 83).
Referee: Adriano Reale.
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