Dundalk remain on course for a domestic treble thanks to a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Waterford FC in their FAI Cup quarter-final clash at the Regional Sports Centre tonight.
The Blues came into the game having enjoyed an upturn in form recently but they were no match for last year's double winners, with a first-half Daniel Kelly hat-trick seeing the Lilywhites past Alan Reynolds' charges, who had been hoping to end their season by reaching a first final since 2004.
Vinny Perth selected a totally different back five from the one which defeated Cork City on Friday night, while the Blues, who gave youth a chance against Hearts in their Scottish Challenge Cup clash at the weekend, drafted in Will Fitzgerald, Michael O'Connor and Maxim Kouogun following their Munster derby victory at Turner's Cross a week ago.
Dundalk put their foot to the home side's throat from the first minute, with Matthew Connor pushing away an early Hoban effort. However, the striker was at the heart of the game's opening goal in the ninth minute.
A retreating Kenny Browne misjudged the flight of a high ball and the deflection off the centre half ran into the path of Hoban on the right wing. Kelly emphatically powered in his pullback and the same pair combined midway through the half when Kelly ran beyond the Blues backline and finished neatly beyond the netminder.
The deficit was almost halved when Kevin Lynch's deep cross met the head of Rory Feely, but the captain's looping header dropped at the wrong side of the crossbar and the game was essentially put to bed just after the half hour mark when McEleney, who retrieved the ball far too easily, crossed for Kelly who nodded in his third of the night.
Fitzgerald and O'Connor missed chances to pull one back within a minute of the restart and Duggan spurned the home side's best chance of the half after the on-loan Linfield man was pulled down by Brian Gartland in the box.
But Duggan's powerful penalty was well held by Aaron McCarey and Jamie McGrath and Hoban should have added to Dundalk's lead before the half concluded.
The home side returned to the pitch on the front foot with Browne heading Georgie Poynton's outswinging free-kick at McCarey and the Blues were enjoying a purple patch of sorts, although an off-target McGrath chance at the other end reminded them they were at risk of being burnt fighting fire with fire.
They got the goal their efforts deserved somewhat fortuitously when a headed clearance was diverted into the Dundalk goal off of Kouogun's shoulder and O'Connor could have nicked another after a perfect Poynton pass behind the defence, but the striker's shot was just to the right of the goal.
Waterford continued to push on as the half progressed, but in truth they had a mountain to climb after the first 45 minutes.
Walter Figueira and JJ Lunney both tested the Dundalk netminder from distance in the final quarter of an hour, but they couldn't breach the Champions' defence as Perth's men took another step towards a clean sweep of domestic trophies.
Waterford FC: Matthew Connor; Rory Feely, Kenny Browne, Maxim Kouogun, Kevin Lynch; Georgie Poynton, Sam Bone (O'Halloran, 77); Walter Figueira, Shane Duggan (Lunney, 68), Will Fitzgerald (Galvin, 60); Michael O'Connor.
Substitutes: Paul Martin (GK), JJ Lunney, Tom Holland, Dean O'Halloran, Cory Galvin, Rob Slevin, Darragh Power.
Dundalk FC: Aaron McCarey; Cameron Dummigan (Gannon, 72), Brian Gartland, Sean Hoare, Dane Massey; Patrick McEleney, Chris Shields; Daniel Kelly (Benson, 69), Jamie McGrath, Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban (Kelly, 80).
Substitutes: Gary Rogers (GK), Sean Gannon, Georgie Kelly, Robbie Benson, Lido Lotefa, Dean Jarvis, Andy Boyle.
Referee: Paul Tuite