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Dublin: 9°C Monday 26 October 2020

Champions Dundalk end St Pat's hopes of Europe

There was no happy return to his former club for Stephen O’Donnell.

Dundalk players celebrate.
Dundalk players celebrate.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Dundalk 4
St Patrick’s Athletic 0

Keith Wallace reports from Oriel Park

DUNDALK LIFTED the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division trophy for the fifth time in six seasons after completing their league campaign unbeaten at Oriel Park with a 4-0 win over Saint Patrick’s Athletic on Friday night.

The Saints needed a win and a huge favour from Finn Harps in Derry if they were to gain unlikely European qualification, and they did threaten on a couple of occasions to do their part of the job.

However, Dundalk took control of the game midway through the first half when Dane Massey popped up with his first home goal of the year.

It was a party night for the champions, who prior to the game announced Seán Gannon as their Supporters’ Player of the Season and Michael Duffy — absent from the matchday squad — as the Players’ Player of the Season.

They made it 2-0 in the 43rd minute when Robbie Benson’s pass over the top caught out St Pat’s as Daniel Kelly stole in for his 14th goal of the season.

The result was put beyond any doubt on the hour-mark. Dundalk broke at pace and Kelly delivered a brilliant cross from the right for Patrick Hoban whose strike at the back post was blocked by Brendan Clarke, but the ball just about crossed the line according to the linesman.

Dundalk made it 4-0 with a minute left on the clock through Georgie Kelly’s header as the champions closed out their league schedule in style.

After suffering back-to-back defeats, Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth had made five changes to the team that narrowly went down at Cork City last week.

Gary Rogers returned in goal and captain Brian Gartland came back in along with Daniel Cleary, Jamie McGrath and John Mountney, who made his first appearance since suffering a metatarsal injury in August.

St Pat’s still harboured outside hopes of European qualification and former Dundalk captain Stephen O’Donnell made four changes from Tuesday night’s impressive come-from-behind win in Derry.

Dave Webster, Conor Clifford, Jake Walker and two-goal hero from the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium James Doona all came into the starting XI.

Dundalk started brightly, but they had a slight scare from the visitors early on, when Chris Forrester’s strike skipped just past the post with Rogers stretching.

Derry City’s early goal against Harps effectively killed off the Saints’ top-four ambitions, but they almost struck the front at Oriel Park in the 20th minute. Forrester picked out Doona on the left and he cut in before unleashing a rasping shot that rattled the top of the side-netting.

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However, Dundalk responded almost immediately with the lead goal. Mountney delivered a brilliant free-kick into the box where Massey connected with a strong header that found its way past Clarke into the bottom corner.

The home side should have made it 2-0 on 28 minutes when Kelly got down the left and delivered onto the head of Hoban but the striker lacked the power to trouble Clarke.

Dundalk doubled their advantage two minutes before half-time as they caught the St. Pat’s defence napping. Benson clipped a quick pass into the path of Kelly and, with just Clarke to beat, he rolled the ball to the net.

Dundalk were counting down to the trophy lift but they still went about their business and added a third goal on 61 minutes.

They broke at pace from a St. Pat’s corner and Kelly’s cross from the right found Hoban at the back post with the striker’s shot blocked by Clarke but the ball bounced towards goal with the linesman signalling that it had crossed the line.

Clarke was annoyed by the decision but the goal stood. The visiting ‘keeper then produced a fantastic stop to deny Dundalk a fourth as he smartly kept out substitute Georgie Kelly’s header from a Hoban cross.

Rogers was called into action at the other end to save from Forrester’s well-struck free-kick as the visitors threatened a late consolation.

But the last word was left to Dundalk as Georgie Kelly – who struck the underside of the crossbar only moments earlier – rose at the back post to bury Massey’s cross.

DUNDALK FC: Gary Rogers; Seán Gannon, Daniel Cleary, Brian Gartland (c), Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Robbie Benson (Jordan Flores 67); John Mountney (Georgie Kelly 69), Jamie McGrath, Daniel Kelly; Patrick Hoban (Seán Murray 77).

SAINT PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Brendan Clarke; Dean Clarke, Dave Webster, Lee Desmond, Ian Bermingham (c); Cían Coleman (Jamie Lennon HT), Conor Clifford (Glen McAuley 77); Darragh Markey (Ronan Hale 67), Chris Forrester, James Doona; Jake Walker.

Referee: Graham Kelly (Cork).

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Keith Wallace

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