By James Rogers
Dundalk extended their lead over Shamrock Rovers at the top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table to seven points with a game in hand still to play after a comfortable victory over UCD at Oriel Park on Monday.
An early double from Michael Duffy and a third from Patrick Hoban ensured an expected three points for the home side but this was nowhere near as easy as many has expected beforehand.
Following Collie O'Neill’s departure seven days earlier, caretaker boss Maciej Tarnogrodzki has instilled a bit of pride and belief in the Students.
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After beating St Patrick’s Athletic 3-1 in the FAI Cup on Friday, they followed it up with another progressive showing at Oriel Park. While there was never any hope of an upset – two goals inside the opening 19 minutes from Michael Duffy saw to that – they did manage to frustrate the home side for long periods.
It took less than three minutes for the breakthrough to arrive with Duffy opening his account with a stunning 25 yard effort which flew past Gavin Sheridan to the top right hand corner.
He then doubled his side’s advantage on 19 minutes when Patrick Hoban charged down the right before crossing for the inrushing Duffy to tap home from three yards out.
Maciej Tarnogrodzki’s side had a great chance to half the deficit on 26 minutes when Liam Kerrigan pulled the ball across from the right-hand side to the inrushing Jason McClelland but he could only fire wide from the edge of the box.
The home side then added the third on 38 minutes with Duffy repaying the earlier favour to Hoban by laying it off to him from the right for the striker to hammer in his 13th league goal of the season.
Hoban went close to a second within two minutes of the restart when he met Duffy’s corner only to be denied by Sheridan.
It was a largely frustrating half after that with Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers – making his 500th Premier Division appearance – having to be brave to preserve his clean sheet when he saved at the feet of Sam Byrne 12 minutes from time.
Duffy had a chance to complete his hat-trick in stoppage time when Sean Murray’s corner was kept alive by Georgie Kelly but the Derry man’s header was adjudged to have been kept out by Sheridan despite claims from the home side that the ball had crossed the line.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Dean Jarvis; Sean Hoare, Patrick McEleney; John Mountney (Daniel Kelly 7), Jamie McGrath (Sean Murray 62), Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban (Georgie Kelly 77).
UCD: Gavin Sheridan; Dan Tobin, Liam Scales, Luke Boore, Evan Farrell; Liam Kerrigan, Jack Keaney, Dara Keane (Aaron McGrath 83), Jason McClelland; Richie O'Farrell (Sam Byrne 72); Yoyo Mahdy.
Referee: Rob Hennessy (Limerick).