Michael Duffy produced a bit of trademark magic to get Dundalk up and running with a 2-1 win over UCD at Oriel Park on Monday night.
With the game locked at one goal apiece, last year's PFAI Player of the Year cut in from the left to fire a low drive under Conor Kearns and secure a first league win for new Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth.
Patrick Hoban captained Dundalk in Brian Gartland's absence and he should have opened the scoring after just three minutes, taking a Sean Gannon cross down on his chest only to hammer his close range effort straight at Kearns.
UCD knocked the ball around in their customary fashion and they prized a great opening with seven minutes on the clock when Neil Farrugia cut the Dundalk back four open but Jason McClelland was denied by Gary Rogers. A similar move paid dividends just short of the half hour.
Before that, Dundalk upped the tempo with Kelly looking their most likely route to goal but the home supporters were stunned into silence with 29 minutes played when Farrugia collected a Conor Davis pass on the inside left and buried his effort past Rogers to give Collie O'Neill's side the lead.
Kelly went within inches to restoring parity with a left-footed curler and Sean Murray went even closer with a half-volley off the other foot but the visitors led at the break and but for a poor Davis finish, they might have went in two goals to the good, the striker pulling a good opportunity across the face of goal in stoppage time.
Perth was able to breath a little bit easier when Hoban pulled the champions back on level terms eight minutes after the restart. Sean Gannon's ball in from the right came off the hand of a UCD defender and Hoban sent Kearns the wrong way after a couple of shimmies in the run up.
With the home support willing them on, Dundalk went in search of a second and Murray saw a cracking effort brilliantly parried by Kearns before returning seconds later with a header that flashed just over the top.
Momentum was gathering and Dundalk pulled ahead on the hour when Duffy picked up a Shields pass on the left and cut inside, leaving Dan Tobin trailing in his wake, before drilling a low effort under Kearns.
Collie O'Neill's side showed no signs of throwing in the towel and Rogers had to stay big to turn substitute Yoyo Mahdy's ball behind after Dundalk were unlocked again by a Gary O'Neill pass.
Dundalk, however, finished strongly and Hoban hammed the crossbar from close range after a sublime move on the left involving Duffy and Dane Massey before seeing a glancing header superbly tipped away by Kearns.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Daniel Cleary, Sean Hoare, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Jordan Flores (Jamie McGrath 37); Daniel Kelly (Cameron Dummigan 87), Sean Murray (John Mountney 61), Michael Duffy, Patrick Hoban.
UCD: Conor Kearns; Daniel Tobin, Liam Scales, Josh Collins, Mark Dignam; Jason McClelland (Sean McDonald 87), Paul Doyle, Gary O’Neill, Timmy Molloy (Richie O'Farrell 83), Neil Farrugia; Conor Davis (Yoyo Mahdy 73).
Referee: Tom Connolly
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