Victory over neighbours Drogheda Utd at Oriel Park last night means that they head for Turner’s Cross on Monday with a chance to cut Cork City’s lead at the top to eight points.
While only the most unbelievable of optimists would bet on John Caulfield’s side blowing their lead with five games to go, Dundalk’s form coupled with Cork’s loss away to Limerick FC last night is sure to leave a few people jittery.
While Stephen Kenny’s side were far from at their best against their Co Louth rivals, goals in either half from Steven Kinsella and David McMillan coupled with a late third from Michael Duffy means they head to the south west on Monday with 10 straight wins under their belts in all competitions.
While Cork floundered in Markets Field, the Lilywhites had the luxury of making six changes to the side which pipped Shamrock Rovers to the EA Sports Cup six days earlier.
Possibly because of this it was Pete Mahon’s visitors who had the best of the early exchanges with Shane Elworthy beating Gary Rogers with a shot after just four minutes only to see it headed off the line by Brian Gartland.
By contrast Dundalk had to wait until the 23rd minute for their first shot through Kinsella but they almost took the lead a minute later when Dylan Connolly crashed a shot off the post.
Drogheda went close again on 29 minutes after some indecision by Rogers in coming to meet Sean Brennan’s ball forward. He initially came to meet it before retreating when Thomas Byrne got there first. The young striker looked to chip the keeper but Rogers got back to claw the ball away from under his crossbar.
Dundalk were struggling to get going but eventually made the breakthrough on 41 minutes. Gartland’s cross from the right was met by the head of Stephen O’Donnell. Stephen McGuinness managed to keep his effort out but Kinsella was on hand to stab home the rebound for his first league goal for the club.
With the goal advantage, the home side grew more into the game in the second half with O’Donnell and Gartland both going close before the second goal arrived on 65 minutes. Sean Gannon found space on the right to cross to McMillan who steered his header back across goal to the bottom corner for his 21st goal in all competitions this season.
It was largely one-way traffic after that with substitute Duffy forcing a fine stop from McGuinness before McMillan went close twice in quick succession — firstly hammering a shot off the crossbar after being played through by Niclas Vemmelund and then going close with a long range effort.
Drogheda’s evening went from bad to worse eight minutes from the end when Byrne was sent off for a second bookable offence having blocked off Patrick McEleney. The striker had also been sent off in the corresponding fixture at United Park in June.
Dundalk toyed with their opponents afterwards with Robbie Benson passing up one of the best chances to add to their tally in the 90th minute when he pulled an effort across the face of goal.
The third would arrive in the first minute of stoppage time, however, as Duffy broke in from the left to slot under McGuinness.
Rogers; Gannon, Gartland, Vemmelund, Massey; O’Donnell, Clifford; Connolly, McGrath, Kinsella (Duffy 47); McMillan. Subs not used: Sava, Shields, Hoare, McEleney, Grimes, Benson.
McGuinness; Deasy (Elliott 62), Mulcahy, Buckley, Dunne; Wixted (Doyle 72), S Brennan, McEvoy, Purdy, Elworthy; Byrne. Subs not used: Farragher, Bayly, Masterson, Hollywood, Hogan.
R Harvey (Dublin).