Dundalk opened up a five-point lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League table with a comfortable win over Finn Harps in Ballybofey.

First-half headers from Michael Duffy and John Mountney had Vinny Perth's side in the ascendancy and Brian Gartland added a third on the hour as the champions took full advantage of Shamrock Rovers' slip up at home to Derry City.

Ollie Horgan handed former Donegal GAA player Mark Anthony McGinley a baptism of fire between the sticks but he was relatively untroubled in the opening half an hour. 

Patrick Hoban, who posed for a picture with Brendan Bradley - the League of Ireland's all-time leading goalscorer, before the game - had the first chance after just two minutes but dragged his effort across the face of McGinley's goal.

The pattern of play was set early on.


Dundalk continued to boss possession but they found a Harps backline, well protected by Sam Todd in front of them, hard to break down.

That all changed after 32 minutes. Patrick McEleney pounced on a misplaced pass to set Mountney away on the right and with Harps exposed at the back, Duffy had all the time in the world to meet the Mayo man's superb cross and plant his header in the bottom left-hand corner.

The hosts responded with plenty of spirit but they finished the half without ever working Gary Rogers.

The closest they came was when Mark Russell cut in from the right, evading Chris Shields and Jordan Flores, but his effort flew over the top.

Dundalk doubled their lead just two minutes before the break. Hoban played the ball off for McEleney on the left and his fantastic cross picked out the incoming Mountney who put enough power on his header to beat McGinley.

The second-half saw Gary Rogers called into action twice in quick succession to deny Daniel O'Reilly and Mark Coyle and those saves proved to be crucial as Gartland met a Flores free-kick to score his second goal at Finn Park this season.

Rogers made the save of the night to tip an O'Reilly drive over his bar late on as Harps battled to get back into it but Dundalk never really looked troubled and they saw it out to take a real grip of the title race.

FINN HARPS: Mark Anthony McGinley; Keith Cowan, Niall Logue (Gareth Harkin 71), Daniel O'Reilly; Jacob Borg, Sam Todd, Mark Coyle, Liam Walsh (Mark Timlin 59), Mark Russell; Mikey Place; Raff Cretaro (Nathan Boyle 63)

DUNDALK: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Daniel Cleary, Dane Massey; Chris Shields (Dylan Hand 88), Jordan Flores; John Mountney (Daniel Kelly 75), Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy (Georgie Kelly 66); Patrick Hoban

REFEREE: Damien McGrath