The Lilywhites’ title credentials were called into doubt following their defeat away to St Patrick’s Athletic last Friday night. That result, coupled with Cork City’s late winner against Shamrock Rovers, ensured their lead at the top was cut to three points with six games to go.
The fact this fixture was brought forward because of their EA Sports Cup final appearance later this month gave Stephen Kenny’s side an immediate chance to respond, however, and they did so in style.
Admittedly, their cause was helped by the fact Peter Hutton made seven changes to the side which beat Sligo Rovers last Friday night as Derry opted to focus on their FAI Ford Cup clash away to Drogheda United this Friday. Indeed, it was Derry City debutant Shay Dunlop whose error led to the opening goal on 12 seconds. The 18-year-old played a pass straight to Pat Hoban, who drove at the visitors defence before playing in Darren Meenan to his right. The winger then made no mistake as he rifled past Ciarán Gallagher.
It was largely one way traffic after that with man of the match Horgan going closest when he was denied by the outstretched leg of Gallagher after breaking from halfway. The second goal finally arrived in the 34th minute, however, when Dane Massey’s cross from the left was turned in by Kurtis Byrne for his 10th goal of the season. Dundalk then made it 3-0 five minutes later with Massey curling a superb free from the right to the left-hand corner of the net after Hoban had been hauled back by Shane McEleney.
The result was then put beyond in the 54th minute when leading scorer Hoban turned to fire a low shot to the net from 22 yards out.
Brian Gartland then headed home his side’s fifth two minutes later from a Darren Meenan corner for his 10th goal of the season.
Byrne had two good chances to add to his tally after that but was denied by Gallagher on each occasion. This match had been brought forward to accommodate Dundalk’s EA Sports Cup final appearance in a fortnight’s time and the Louth men could not have picked a better time to play it considering the side Derry put out with the win leaving them six points clear at the summit, albeit with a game more played than those chasing them.
DUNDALK: Cherrie; Gannon, Gartland, Boyle (Rossiter 55), Massey; Horgan (McDermott 59), Shields, Towell, Meenan; Byrne, Hoban (McMillan 78).
DERRY CITY: Gallagher; Dunlop (Dooley 66), Kelly, S McEleney, Timlin; Tracey, Houston, McNamee (P McEleney 72), Molloy, Curran, Boyle.
Referee: T Connolly (Dublin).