Unbeaten Dundalk moved five points clear at the top of the First Division table after a comfortable victory over Shelbourne in Oriel Park last night.

John Gill’s side were on top from the very off as last season’s Premier Division champions failed to register a meaninful effort on Chris Bennion’s goal over the course of the 90 minutes.

Dundalk were gifted an opener after just 99 seconds when former Shels defender David Crawley fired home from a 30 yard free that goalkeeper Tony O’Dowd made a mess of in his attempts to save.

The home side continued to dominate proceedings and were unlucky not to double their advantage on 17 minutes when Crawley picked out Ben Whelehan at the back post only for the centre half to head onto the roof of the net.

O’Dowd then redeemed himself somewhat for his previous error when he finger-tipped a Paul Marney effort over the crossbar on 24 minutes. Dundalk continued to probe their opponents for the remainder of the first half and into the second half.

However, it took them until the 65th minute to double their advantage when a superb run from midfield by Cathal O’Connor saw him work the ball inside the box to Paul Smyth who rifled home his first goal for the Louth outfit by drilling low to the net.

A night of misery for Dermot Keely’s men was then completed 13 minutes from time when Philip Hughes cut in off the right wing past three defenders to rifle an unstoppable shot past O’Dowd from the edge of the area to give Dundalk a thoroughly deserved three points.

Dundalk: Bennion; Flanagan, Lynch, Whelehan (McGauley, 38 mins), Crawley; O’Connor, Marney, Williams (R Dunne, 74 mins), K Dunne; Hughes, Smyth (Perth, 70 mins).

Shelbourne: O’Dowd; O’Reilly, Rafferty, Brophy, Ryan; Murphy, Chambers, Lacey (O’Neill, 72 mins), Harte, McEniff (Walsh, half-time); Leech.

Referee: T Connolly (Dublin).