ONLY WHEN Daryl Horgan swept a shot high into Ciaran Gallagher’s net in the 75th minute could Dundalk rest easy.
Dundalk 2 Finn Harps 0
The champions bossed this encounter, but couldn’t put hard-working Finn Harps to bed until Horgan, finally, landed the killer blow 15 minutes from time.
Before 2,053 at Oriel Park, Harps remarkably were still in the game until that point despite playing second fiddle to Dundalk, who had 72 per cent of the possession.
Patrick McEleney’s sixth-minute goal broke the resistance of Harps’ packed rearguard, but Dundalk couldn’t find another way past Gallagher until Horgan hit the decisive second.[adrotate group=”38″]
Somehow, Harps were just a goal down at half-time, though McEleney’s goal was the only separator.
It would prove a costly night for Ollie Horgan, who was bizarrely banished to the stands by the referee, Neil Doyle.
Gallagher was yellow carded for time wasting despite Dundalk making a substitution at the time. Horgan was rightly livid, but spent the remainder of the contest watching from the main stand.
With a crunch relegation battle against Longford Town in Ballybofey on Friday night, the sight of Ruairi Keating being carted off on a stretcher has further dented a squad that could only name five substitutes here under-19 player Mark Coyle, who was handed his debut.
Keating went to ground early in the second half after going over awkwardly, with no-one in his immediate vicinity and the injury adds to an already-considerable injury list.
Dundalk, having just missed out on a place in the group stages of the Champions League following defeat to Legia Warsaw last month will face AZ Alkmaar in Holland on Thursday night in their opening Europa League fixture.[adrotate group=”37″]
They go there after extending their lead at the top of the table to ten points.
It took the Lilywhites a little over five minutes to open the scoring. Derry native McEleney picked up possession around 30 yards from goal, surged forward before clipping past Gallagher from 20 yards.
Harps arrived armed with a packed defence, but the rearguard was breached much too easily by the champions.[adrotate group=”81″]
Gallagher’s inclusion, in for his first start since the 1-1 draw with Shamrock Rovers in May, was one of six changes made by Ollie Horgan to the team that began the abandoned meeting with Sligo Rovers at The Showgrounds nine days ago.
Gallagher missed the meeting of the teams at Oriel Park earlier in the season because of work commitments.
There were times here when the Raphoe native could’ve been forgiven for wishing he’d been on the roster for this evening.[adrotate group=”46″]
Gallagher had to be on his toes to turn over in the third minute when a John Mountney cross flew off Ciaran Coll, forcing the Harps netminder into action.
Gallagher held onto a stinging effort from Daryl Horgan and was put full stretch by a swerving low shot from Mountney, all before quarter-of-an-hour had gone..
Gallagher turned way from a long-range attempt by Horgan and had to be off his line smartly to save at the feet of David McMillan after a probing through ball by Chris Shields’ opening the visitors up.[adrotate group=”53″]
Just before half-time, Dundalk were a whisker away from doubling the lead as Paddy Barrett headed off the crossbar from McEleney’s free and in stoppage time Gallagher gathered from McEleney at the second time of asking.
Along with Gallagher, Thomas McMonagle, Michael Funston, Ryan Curran, Tony McNamee and Josh Mailey all came into a Harps side that was absent the unavailable Barry Molloy, the suspended Ethan Boyle and the injured Sean Houston and Adam Hanlon.
Harps had their first attempt on goal in the 63rd minute when a Keith Cowan header was routinely saved by Gary Rogers.[adrotate group=”70″]
Dundalk owned the ball, but couldn’t put Harps to sleep.
Andy Boyle headed over the top and McEleney’s stinging shot was parried away by Gallagher as the frustrations grew before Horgan sliced home and Harps were condemned to a sixth straight defeat and their wait for a goal is now at 561 minutes.[adrotate group=”50″]
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Andy Boyle, Paddy Barrett, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Robbie Benson; John Mountney (Ronan Finn 68), Patrick McEleney (Dean Shiels 76), Daryl Horgan; David McMillan (Ciaran Kilduff 81).
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Josh Mailey, Keith Cowan, Packie Mailey, Thomas McMonagle, Ciaran Coll; Ryan Curran, Tony McNamee (Mark Coyle 76), Gareth Harkin, Michael Funston (BJ Banda 85); Ruairi Keating (Dave Scully 52).
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin).Tags: