Niall Newberry reports from Oriel Park
Dundalk lifted the SSE Airtricity League trophy for the fifth time in six years on Friday night following what was nothing more than an academic 4-0 win over St Patrick’s Athletic at Oriel Park.
Oriel was a kingdom in ancient times, but Vinny Perth and his Dundalk troops have certainly made it a modern-day fortress – the Lilywhites having not lost a league game on their home patch all season.
Goals from Dane Massey, Daniel Kelly and Georgie Kelly along with a Brendan Clarke own goal made it a thoroughly enjoyable night for their supporters as they celebrated yet another league title.
After securing the title just over a month ago, Dundalk had taken their foot off the pedal somewhat and uncharacteristically lost two on the bounce coming into this final league fixture of the campaign.
They made five changes from their 1-0 defeat at Cork City last Friday with Gary Rogers, Brian Gartland, Daniel Cleary, John Mountney and Jamie McGrath all returning to the starting line-up.
St Pats still had a slight chance of European qualification after beating Derry City 3-1 on Tuesday and Stephen O’Donnell made three changes from that impressive win at the Ryan McBride Brandywell.
It was David Webster, Conor Clifford and James Doona who came into the team for their last match.
With an albeit slim chance of European qualification, the visitors started very brightly and had the game’s first chance when a rejuvenated Chris Forrester unleashed a shot that wasn’t too far wide.
St Pats had another decent effort when the lively looking Doona showed some really excellent skill out on the left, cutting inside Sean Gannon before firing a powerful shot right into the side-netting.
Despite that bright start, it was Dundalk that instead took the lead on 22 minutes when Mountney’s free-kick was deftly headed home by Dane Massey in what really was a punch in the gut for St Pats.
Dundalk were hungry for more goals and Daniel Kelly did well out on the left flank before crossing for Patrick Hoban, who could only head straight into the arms of the very grateful Brendan Clarke.
The Lilywhites did double their advantage two minutes before the break when Robbie Benson’s long set-piece was brilliantly controlled by Daniel Kelly, who then expertly slotted past a helpless Clarke.
Dundalk got their third on 61 minutes when Daniel Kelly’s superb cross was somehow bundled home by Hoban after it went under the despairing Clarke, who was then later credited with the own goal.
Clarke to some extent redeemed himself when he excellently kept out a good Georgie Kelly header before also saving well from another substitute in Jordan Flores in the closing minutes of the game.
Dundalk did get their fourth with one minute of normal time remaining though when Georgie Kelly turned home just seconds after he had almost broken the crossbar from Jamie McGrath’s low cross.
An easy win for Dundalk which symbolised their dominance over the past six years in Irish football.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Daniel Cleary, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Robbie Benson (Jordan Flores 67); John Mountney (Georgie Kelly 69), Jamie McGrath, Daniel Kelly; Patrick Hoban (Sean Murray 77).
Subs not used: Aaron McCarey, Cameron Dummigan, Dean Jarvis, Andy Boyle.
Booked: Patrick Hoban (39).
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Dean Clarke, David Webster, Lee Desmond, Ian Bermingham; Cian Coleman (Jamie Lennon 46), Conor Clifford (Glen McAuley 77); Darragh Markey, Chris Forrester, James Doona; Jake Walker.
Subs not used: Barry Murphy, Simon Madden, Rhys McCabe, Gary Shaw, Ronan Hale.
Booked: Dean Clarke (58).
Referee: Graham Kelly.
Attendance: 3,000 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Daniel Kelly (Dundalk).