By Adrian Flanagan
A first-half hat-trick from Daniel Kelly ensured that Dundalk remain on course for a domestic treble as Vinny Perth’s side booked their place into the semi-final of the FAI Cup after a hard-fought win over a battling Waterford FC at the RSC last night.
After forcing two early corners, the cup holders brought a first save out of Waterford keeper Matt Connor on five minutes when a Michael O’Connor tackle on Jamie McGrath saw the ball break to Pat Hoban, but the striker saw his cracking effort parried away by the Blues netminder.
Dundalk did find the breakthrough goal four minutes later when a mistake from Kenny Browne allowed Hoban space out on the right-side and his cross to the front post was hammered to the net by Daniel Kelly.
It was the same combination that combined for a second Dundalk goal on 23 minutes when a superb through ball from Hoban sent Kelly clear on the right-side and he beat Matt Connor with a good finish at his near post.
Kelly completed the perfect hat-trick in a first-half romp 10 minutes later when the attacker got free inside the penalty area to power a header past ’keeper Matt Connor, after a brilliant Patrick McEleney left-wing cross.
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The Blues did have a chance to pull a goal back from the penalty spot on 36 minutes when Michael O’Connor was fouled by Brian Gartland, but Shane Duggan saw his effort from 12 yards kept out by Dundalk keeper Aaron McCarey.
Dundalk had a great chance to extend their lead three minutes before the half-time whistle when Cameron Dummigan whipped in a right-wing cross that picked out Pat Hoban, but he headed over.
Kenny Browne could have pulled a goal back for the hosts on 48 minutes when Georgie Poynton sent in a free kick to the back post for the centre half, but his header was kept out by an excellent Aaron McCarey save. Maxi Kouogun gave the home side a lifeline on 56 minutes. Poynton whipped in a right-wing corner kick that was headed clear by Chris Shields, fell to Kougoun and looped over ’keeper McCarey.
It was Michael O’Connor that should have narrowed the deficit for the Blues just two minutes later when he outpaced Brian Gartland to get on the end of a Georgie Poynton pass, but he blazed wide.
The Blues continued to fight and created another chance on 78 minutes as Kouogun’s pass set up Walter Figueira but Aaron McCarey saved.
Waterford FC: Connor, Feely, Browne, Kouogun, Lynch, Bone (O’Halloran ’78), Duggan (Lunney ’69), Poynton, Fitzgerald (Galvin ’62), O’Connor, Figueira
Dundalk FC: McCarey, Hoare, Gartland, Shields, Massey, D. Kelly (Benson ’69), McGrath, McEleney, Dummigan (Gannon ’74), Duffy, Hoban (G. Kelly ’81)
Referee: Paul Tuite (Dublin).