Dundalk 2-0 Longford Town
Dundalk will play in the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup final for the first time since 2002 after goals from Paddy Barrett and Ronan Finn secured Stephen Kenny’s double chasers a 2-0 victory in their semi-final tie with Longford Town at Oriel Park.
Barrett powered home a thumping header in the 36th minute to give Dundalk the lead before Ronan Finn, with the aid of a Pat Sullivan deflection, put the result beyond the midlanders just four minutes after the restart.
The Lilywhites will now face Cork City or Bray Wanderers in the showpiece at the Aviva Stadium on 8 November.
And, with the SSE Airtricity League title all but secured, the Louth side know that victory in the final on would complete the club’s third league and FAI Cup double.
Longford came into the game as the only team to have kept Dundalk scoreless in a domestic game at Oriel Park.
That came in the 0-0 draw on 7 August but the star man that night, goalkeeper Paul Hunt, found himself on the bench with Paul Skinner taking his place between the posts.
Skinner should have been tested as early as the fourth minute.
Sean Gannon’s brilliant pass cut the Longford defence apart but Ciaran Kilduff could only steer his effort wide of the post after leaving Sullivan in his wake.
The Longford Town goalkeeper then clawed a dangerous John Mountney delivery to safety before his opposite number, Gary Rogers, also showed safe hands, gathering a deflected Connor Powell cross from under his crossbar.
The home side remained on the front foot and Mountney set up Richie Towell for a pop in the 13th minute.
Towell shifted the ball onto his left foot but the shot lacked the venom to bother Skinner.
The league’s top scorer went closer four minutes later, curling a free-kick just over Skinner’s crossbar after Philip Gannon was penalised for a late tackle on Mountney, 25-yards from goal.
Longford sat in and frustrated the champions but they almost came unstuck in the 31st minute. A sustained period of pressure by the Lilywhites ended with Towell curling another left footed effort past Skinner, only to see it come back off the crossbar.
The goal that divided the sides at the break arrived four minutes later. Daryl Horgan’s corner from the right found Barrett and the centre back’s header had enough to beat Pat Sullivan on the far post. It was Dundalk’s 100th of the season.
Longford’s hopes of finding a route back into the game were dealt a hammer blow just four minutes into the second half. Horgan picked out Finn and his drive took a wicked, wicked deflection off the unfortunate Sullivan, leaving Skinner completely flat footed.
From then on it was a case of how many Dundalk would get with Horgan, Finn, Towell and Dane Massey all seeing efforts just miss the target.
Cousins turned to his substitutes bench in a bid to salvage something but David O’Sullivan’s 82nd-minute shot into Rogers’ midriff and a late Gary Shaw drive were their only chances of note.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Andy Boyle, Paddy Barrett, Dane Massey; Richie Towell, Stephen O’Donnell; John Mountney (Darren Meenan 42), Ronan Finn (Chris Shields 75), Daryl Horgan; Ciaran Kilduff (David McMillan 81).
Longford Town: Paul Skinner; Noel Haverty, Pat Sullivan, Rhys Gorman, Connor Powell; Stephen Rice, Philip Gannon; Lorcan Shannon (Martin Deady 86), Mark Salmon (David O’Sullivan 60), Kaleem Simon (Jamie Mulhall 66); Gary Shaw.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.