Ciarán Fisher reports from Oriel Park
A second half hat-trick from Patrick Hoban jump-started Dundalk’s FAI Cup campaign and gave the cup holders daylight to run out comfortable winners over St Mochta’s. The game finished 5-1 at Oriel Park in the FAI Cup Second Round
But it was far from plain sailing (can we expect anything less from Dundalk this season?), the home side had to rally after a cagey first 45 that ended a goal apiece. The Lilywhites have been FAI Cup finalists every year since 2015, so anything other than a win against their high-flying Leinster Senior League opposition, would be quite the upset.
There might not have been a better time for the visitors to play this tie though as Dundalk had far from ideal preparations ahead of this game. Floundering league form has them occupying the relegation play-off spot in the league and Vinny Perth is facing something of an injury selection crisis.
Darragh Leahy, Brian Gartland, Michael Duffy, Patrick McEleney, Daniel Kelly, David McMillan and Will Patching were noticeable absentees from the team sheet.
A sixth minute breakaway chance almost gave the Leinster Senior League side the lead, before Dundalk assumed a degree of control over the game. It was a timely reminder for the Railwaymen, not take their task too lightly, it wasn’t heeded all that well.
The opening goal came from a well taken Sean Murray corner on two minutes later, which was headed home by Moroccan Sami Ben Amar. For a period after that goal, it looked like it might be something of a cake-walk for Dundalk when they zipped the ball around probing for weaknesses.
Cameron Dummigan’s almost doubled the lead minutes later when his shot rattled the inside of the crossbar. It appeared, to some, to make its way across the line for a goal, but the referee and assistant didn’t share that view.
Remarkably, Dundalk’s lead only lasted four minutes.
The equaliser came courtesy of a mistake at the back. Sonni Nattestad played an all-to-casual short pass to Sam Stanton, across his own box.
The initial pass almost clipped striker Gareth McCaffrey’s heels, but when Stanton couldn’t get the ball under immediate control, McCaffrety was poised and ready to get the Dundalk player to cough up possession right in front of the box – the Mochta’s striker only had the ‘keeper to beat and he coolly converted to make it 1-1.
The prospect of a giant-killing was very much alive.
The FAI Cup holders weren’t without their chances, in particular they caused problems through set pieces and new signing, Ben Amar, on the right hand side. But there was a real start-stop feel to their efforts.
Ben Amar tricked his way into the box on 20 minutes and was bundled to the ground for what could have been a penalty.
Han Jeongwoo unable to do much with the resulting lose ball, chipping into netminder Adam Kmet’s hands for an easy save. Stanton forced a much more pressing save from Kmet when he drilled a half volley goalward five minutes later.
The injury of Wilfred Zahibo near the half hour didn’t aid Dundalk’s efforts to build up a head of steam, and compounds Perth’s injury crisis. Bar a solitary Patrick Hoban header, the home side didn’t muster much more of note.
St Mochta’s will have been pleased with keeping their shape, and even more so with the 1-1 score at half time.
The Louth side came out with a bit more pomp in the second half and effectively ended the tie as a contest within six minutes of the restart with two quick goals. The first a penalty won by the ever-problematic Ben Amar and blasted top left by Patrick Hoban to make it 2-1.
Hoban had his brace less than a minute later when Ben Amar released Murray, whose cross found Hoban. His first touch helped him steal space despite the close attention from Alan Byrne, before drilling home from just inside the box with his left foot.
Vinny Perth’s sides were well and truly in the ascension in the second half, as the gap in quality and fitness began to tell. Hoban completed his hat-trick on the hour mark, again played through by Murray (who bagged three assists).
The floodgates threatened to spill open, when Dundalk twice went close through Murray in quick succession. Hoban almost managed a fourth but was denied by the quick reactions of Kmet in goals, although Han Jeongwoo was alive to the spilled ball to make it 5-1.
With the objective achieved, Perth emptied his bench to rest his players and blood others. Mochta’s followed suit to try and abate tiring legs.
The FAI Cup holders progress to the Quarter-Finals thanks to their rip-roar performance in the second half. It’s a much needed boost in a season where it is looking increasingly likely that this competition represents their best chance of European participation next year.
Dundalk: Cameron Yates; Raivis Jurkovskis, Cameron Dummigan, Andy Boyle (c), Sonni Nattestad; Han Jeongwoo (Ryan O'Kane 76), Sean Murray, Sam Stanton (Mayowa Animasahun 76), Wilfried Zahibo (Greg Sloggett 29); Patrick Hoban, Sami Ben Amar (Mark Hanratty 69).
Subs not used: Alessio Abibi, Daniel Cleary, Michael Duffy.
St Mochta's: Adam Kmet; Alex O'Hanlon (Jason Grouse 83), Noel Murray, Michael Daly (Evan Murphy 83), Sean Byrne, Alan Byrne; Michael Scott (Jason Marks 73), Gareth Brady (Denis Moran 72), Karl Somers (c); Glenn Shannon, Gareth McCaffrey (Stephen Donnelly 77).
Subs not used: Sean Heaney, Kyle Hogan, Michal Skrzypczak, Paul O'Connor.
Booked: Gareth Brady (48).
Referee: Graham Kelly.
extratime.com Player of the Match: Patrick Hoban (Dundalk)