Dundalk narrowed the gap with league leaders Cork City to 12 points as they breezed to victory over Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds on Friday night.

Robbie Benson was the star in the heart of Dundalk's midfield, scoring twice in the first half, before Patrick McEleney sealed the win just after the hour mark.

The Lilywhites simply had far too much for a Seagulls side that looked disjointed from the off and never got to grips with the speed and accuracy of Dundalk's quick-passing game.

Bray, whose chairman Denis O'Connor issued a bizarre press release at half-time that seemed to suggest the club's backers would withdraw funding if attendance doesn't improve, never got going.

They fell behind from a counter-attack as the crowd of more than 1,500 was still making its way through the turnstiles, Benson opening his account inside two minutes.

Gary McCabe's corner was stabbed clear as far as Michael Duffy wide on the right. He fed Patrick McEleney, who played Benson clean through.

Benson, whose absence coincided with Dundalk's run of poor form earlier in the season, coolly rounded Peter Cherrie in the Bray goal before slotting the ball home.

Duffy was involved again moments later as he controlled a diagonal ball from Dane Massey, cut inside before clipping a shot with the outside of his right boot that wasn't far off hitting the target.

Bray were struggling to move the ball up the pitch without the option of an out ball to Dylan Connolly, who was unveiled by Dundalk last night after Bray accepted an undisclosed transfer fee.

Aaron Greene took up Connolly's usual position wide on the left and it was his skill and crossfield pass that picked out Ryan Brennan, who slid in Keith Buckley to win a corner.

Gary McCabe's delivery from a subsequent set-piece was floated in towards the unmarked Anto Flood, but the striker mistimed his jump and bundled the ball onto the roof of the net.

Dundalk lost Stephen O'Donnell to injury after just 20 minutes – the third time in three trips to Greater Dublin this season he's been withdrawn early – to be replaced by Chris Shields.

The change didn't halt Dundalk's momentum, however, and Benson again tested Cherrie with a snap-volley from the edge of the box that the Scot watched all the way.

And the former UCD man underlined his worth once more as he doubled his tally before the half-hour, playing an intricate one-two with Jamie McGrath before curling first time past Cherrie.

The second half continued in the vein of the first as Dundalk dominated possession and Flood struck an increasingly frustrated figure up front for Bray.

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It took almost 20 minutes of the second half for the Lilywhites to manufacture a third, McEleney catching Cherrie and a good chunk of the fans by surprise with a shot from distance that sneaked in.

And Benson could have sealed his hat-trick ten minutes from time as he got on the end of Sean Gannon's deep cross but he couldn't steer his header on target.

Bray Wanderers: Peter Cherrie; Keith Buckley, Hugh Douglas, Conor Kenna, Kevin Lynch; Mark Salmon (Darragh Noone 65), John Sullivan, Ryan Brennan, Gary McCabe (Jason Marks 82), Aaron Greene; Anto Flood (Ger Pender 65)

Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Niclas Vemmelund, Dane Massey; Stephen O'Donnell (Chris Shields 21), Robbie Benson, Jamie McGrath (John Mountney 59), Michael Duffy, Patrick McEleney; David McMillan (Ciaran Kilduff 80)