Daniel Kelly opened the scoring at Oriel Park on Friday. Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
High five

Free-scoring Dundalk smash five past Finn Harps to bounce back from Europa League exit

The defending champions put their European exit to Slovan Bratislava behind them with a comprehensive win.

Dundalk 5

Finn Harps 0

Keith Wallace reports from Oriel Park

DUNDALK PUT THEIR European disappointment behind them with a 5-0 win over ten-man Finn Harps in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division at Oriel Park on Friday night.

The defending champions – showing six changes from their defeat by Slovan Bratislava in the UEFA Europa League on Tuesday – were completely out of sorts in the first half.

A moment of inspiration almost arrived from Patrick McEleney on the half-hour as he rattled the woodwork, but, six minutes later, it would be a gift from Harps that changed the course of the game.

Harry Ascroft was under little pressure close to his own box when he played the ball to Daniel Kelly who nipped in and made no mistake with the finish.

Gareth Harkin and Sean Murray Finn Harps' Gareth Harkin and Sean Murray of Dundalk. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Harps were then reduced to ten men when Mark Russell picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Kelly, as the relegation-threatened Donegal men went in at the break with a mountain to climb.

Harps goalkeeper Mark McGinley was in fine form and early in the second half he saved from Georgie Kelly, McEleney and Seán Murray.

But Dundalk made certain of the points on the hour-mark when substitute Joshua Smith played a back-pass to Georgie Kelly who toe-poked past McGinley.

McEleney added a third from close range soon after and then Jamie McGrath came off the bench to strike a fourth. McEleney made it 5-0 late on as Dundalk maintained their seven-point advantage at the summit.

Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth had freshened up his team with six changes from three nights earlier.

Captain Brian Gartland, Cameron Dummigan, Seán Hoare, Daniel Kelly, Georgie Kelly and McEleney came into the lineup, with Andy Boyle, Daniel Cleary, Seán Gannon, John Mountney, Patrick Hoban and McGrath all dropping to the bench.

Finn Harps had only lost 1-0 at Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Cup last weekend, and their manager Ollie Horgan recalled Jacob Borg, Keith Cowan, Nathan Boyle and Mikey Place to their starting XI.

Dundalk were lethargic, against a well-organised Harps side, and the opening 30 minutes was as poor as the league leaders have played under Perth this season.

Tempers flare between the sides during the game Tempers flare between the sides during the game. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

The home support, too, was down in numbers and noise. The whole of Oriel Park needed a lift, and it nearly arrived right on the half-hour through a moment of magic from McEleney, who skipped away from Borg and sent a dipping 20-yard shot which crashed off the crossbar.

The breakthrough arrived on 36 minutes, with Harps gifting Dundalk the lead as Ascroft played the ball directly to Daniel Kelly who was alert in latching onto it to score.

Harps almost responded immediately, with Ascroft going close from a corner, but they were reduced to ten men moments later when Russell was shown a second yellow card after a foul on Daniel Kelly.

Dundalk went close to a second from Murray’s resulting free-kick which was met by Seán Hoare, but McGinley got down smartly to turn the header behind.

At the beginning of the second half, Georgie Kelly drove a shot which was well pushed away by McGinley.

On 52 minutes, McEleney’s left-footed strike from 25-yards was stopped well by the ‘keeper, who then blocked Murray’s powerful effort after a pull-back from Michael Duffy.

But Harps again handed Dundalk a present on the hour when Smith miscontrolled and played a back-pass for Georgie Kelly who fired past McGinley.

It was 3-0 on 64 minutes when Dummigan’s cross found its way through to McEleney who netted from close range.

It was a case of damage limitation for Harps. However, they could not avoid conceding more, with a fourth arriving with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining as McEleney crossed for McGrath who took his goal well.

A fine second-half performance from the title favourites was capped in the 89th minute when McEleney lifted the ball over McGinley after a through-ball from McGrath.

DUNDALK: Gary Rogers; Cameron Dummigan, Seán Hoare, Brian Gartland (c), Dane Massey; Chris Shields (John Mountney 73), Seán Murray; Daniel Kelly, Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy (Jamie McGrath 65); Georgie Kelly (Patrick Hoban 71).

FINN HARPS: Mark Anthony McGinley; Jacob Borg, Daniel O’Reilly, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd (c), Mark Russell; Harry Ascroft (Raffaele Cretaro 78), Ruairí Harkin (Tony McNamee 66), Gareth Harkin; Mikey Place (Joshua Smith HT); Nathan Boyle.

Referee: Graham Kelly (Cork).

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