Friday night's FAI Cup semi-final was settled by another piece of Patrick McEleney magic as Dundalk booked a date at the Aviva Stadium for the fourth successive year with a 1-0 win over UCD.

The 26-year-old settled the tie in the 40th minute when he cut across two UCD defenders and left Conor Kearns grasping at fresh air with a stunning right-footed effort.


Stephen Kenny’s side will meet either Bohemians or Cork City in the decider on November 4th and with the league title virtually in the bag, they are chasing the club’s fourth league and FAI Cup double.

Collie O'Neill's side, who were looking to pull off a major shock and reach only the club's second FAI Cup final, kept their shape and discipline well in the early stages, frustrating the Premier Division champions elect.

A Brian Gartland header from a Michael Duffy corner was Dundalk's clearest opening.

Offensively, they struggled to impose themselves, however, and it was Dundalk who injected a bit of tempo as the game hit the quarter hour mark with Josh Collins coming across to hack a dangerous Michael Duffy ball to safety before McEleney saw a goalbound effort charged down by a light blue shirt.

The Students were up in arms in the 20th minute when referee Robert Hennessy brandished yellow instead of red after Daniel Cleary launched into a crude tackle on Conor Davis. Replays would suggest the Lilywhites centre-back was lucky to stay on the bench and it turned out to be a major talking point at the final whistle.

The hosts also had reason to feel aggrieved when Sean Gannon looked to have been pulled down after breaking into the penalty area. Despite having two assistants at his disposal, Hennessy saw nothing wrong with the challenge. 

Dundalk started to turn the screw as the half wore on and Liam Scales came to UCD's rescue on two occasions, cutting out a Gannon cutback when the Dundalk full-back would have been better trying his luck, before blocking John Mountney's drive from a Hoban knockdown.

The pressure finally told five minutes before the break when McEleney picked the ball up deep, drove centrally and arrowed a brilliant finish past Kearns to give Dundalk a half-time lead.

Gary Rogers was forced to make his first real save of note with 57 minutes played when UCD skipper Gary O'Neill curled a free-kick over the Dundalk wall searching for the inside of the 'keeper's right-hand post.

UCD had another chance to trouble Rogers with a free-kick in another good position eight minutes later but James McClelland's attempt lacked any sort of direction and flew off target.

Kearns did well to parry a couple of Hoban hits around the post and the striker went agonisingly close to a second in the last minute as Dundalk saw it out relatively comfortably to keep their double dream well and truly alive.

Dundalk FC: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Daniel Cleary, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Robbie Benson (Dean Jarvis 90); John Mountney (Jamie McGrath 76), Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban. Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (GK), Stephen Folan, Dylan Connolly, Ronan Murray, Georgie Kelly.

UCD: Conor Kearns; Dan Tobin (Yoyo Mahdy 87), Liam Scales, Josh Collins, Paul Doyle; Neil Farrugia, Greg Sloggett, Gary O’Neill, James McClelland; Timmy Molloy (Daire O’Connor 82); Conor Davis. Subs not used: Gavin Sheridan (GK), Evan Farrell, Kevin Coffey, Conor Crowley, Sean McDonald

Referee: Robert Hennessy. 

Attendance: 2,926.