Niall Newberry reports from Oriel Park
Dundalk maintained their eight-point advantage at the top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table thanks to what was a routine 3-0 win over Waterford at Oriel Park on Monday night.
An early own goal from Waterford defender Kenny Browne along with strikes from both Daniel Kelly and Jamie McGrath made sure that the Lilywhites recorded their 13th win from 14 matches.
Dundalk made four changes from the side that beat Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night with Daniel Cleary, Dean Jarvis, Jamie McGrath and Kelly all coming into the starting line-up.
Waterford made three alterations from a devastating 2-1 home defeat to Bohemians on the same night as Browne, Kevin Lynch and George Poynton – once of Dundalk – took their place in the team.
The Lilywhites, rather fortuitously, took the lead inside two minutes when winger Kelly’s cross was diverted into his own net by Browne following a bad mix-up between himself and Matthew Connor.
Vinny Perth’s charges went in search of a second and Patrick Hoban had a goal ruled out for offside.
Soon after that, defender Sean Hoare did brilliantly out on the left flank to get away from, first Rory Feely and then Poynton, but unfortunately for Dundalk, his cross evaded everyone in a white shirt.
Dundalk did find that second goal on 24 minutes when Hoban – whose future at the club has been cast into reasonable doubt – put the ball on a plate for Kelly, who finished well from close range.
The Blues tried their best to get back into the contest and JJ Lunney rattled the crossbar with Gary Rogers rooted to his spot, before Liam Walsh’s shot stung the hands of the Dundalk netminder.
The hosts finished the first half strongly though, and Patrick McEleney’s shot flew just over, before SWAI player of the month Sean Gannon volleyed over after Waterford had failed to clear their lines.
Dundalk went out in the second period with intentions of just seeing out the match, but Hoban did come very close right on the hour-mark when his low shot fizzed just wide of Connor’s near post.
The Lilywhites sealed another valuable three points with a killer third goal in the 65th minute as the superb McGrath volleyed through a cluster of Waterford defenders and past a despairing Connor.
Three really should have been four with eight minutes remaining when substitute Robbie Benson’s pass put Hoban through on goal, but the SSE Airtricity League’s top scorer pulled his effort just wide.
Waterford had chances to grab what would have been nothing more than a consolation as Shane Duggan rattled the crossbar, before Bastien Hery unleashed a shot which sailed over in injury-time.
Make no mistake though, this was as easy a victory as they come and with an eight-point lead and just 13 matches remaining, can anyone stop Dundalk from again winning the title come October?
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Daniel Cleary, Sean Hoare (Brian Gartland 46), Dean Jarvis; Chris Shields, Patrick McEleney (Robbie Benson 66); Daniel Kelly, Jamie McGrath, Michael Duffy (Sean Murray 75); Patrick Hoban.
Subs not used: Aaron McCarey, Dane Massey, Cameron Dummigan, Georgie Kelly.
Booked: Daniel Cleary (87).
Waterford: Matthew Connor; George Poynton, Kenny Browne (Cory Galvin 46), Damien Delaney, Kevin Lynch (John Martin 69); Karolis Chvedukas, JJ Lunney, Bastien Hery, Shane Duggan; Rory Feely, Liam Walsh (Dean O’Halloran 65).
Subs not used: Paul Martin, Maxim Kouogun, Shane Griffin, Regix Madika.
Booked: Karolis Chvedukas (16).
Referee: Derek Tomney.
Attendance: 2,500 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Jamie McGrath (Dundalk).