Hoare wonder strike keeps Lilies on track
FOR all of Dundalk’s deeds in Irish club football, and there have been many in the reign of Stephen Kenny alone, the boys from the border town have never reached the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup final three years running.
It’s a rare feat, achieved by one only club, Shamrock Rovers, whose dominance in the 95-year history of the grand old competition is such that they have chalked up three or more successive final appearances no less than five times – the last all of 30 years ago.
Either Dundalk, winners in 2015, or Cork City, the holders, could join Rovers in that elite club should they avoid each other in tomorrow’s draw for the quarter-finals.
Along with Rovers, they are the teams most likely to emerge triumphant when the dust clears in the Aviva Stadium corral after the final on November 5, Guy Fawkes Night.
While Dundalk and Rovers are already through to the EA Sports Cup final in three weeks’ time, the FAI Cup is the big daddy, as it carries a €250,000 booty between prize money and an automatic Europa League place.
It explains why Kenny took a trip to the pastoral setting of the Iveagh Grounds seriously, back-boning his team with a cluster of experienced hands such as Gary Rogers, Sean Gannon, Chris Shields, Patrick McEleney and David McMillan.
While the League defence is beyond Dundalk, there is the not insignificant matter of making up for last year’s last-gasp loss in the Cup final, to Cork City.
The 4.0pm kick-off clashed with events in Croker but there was a decent crowd and the pitchside burger vans and ice cream man were kept busy.
So, too, were the Crumlin defence, who performed heroically to keep free-scoring Dundalk at bay and were hanging on grimly at 2-1 until Steven Kinsella applied gloss to the scoreline for Dundalk when time was almost up.
For Dundalk, centre-half Sean Hoare shaded the Man of the Match honours for a wonder strike in the first half – his first goal for the club – his fine distribution from deep, and tidy defensive play whenever plucky Crumlin managed to work a route into the Dundalk box.
There was an impressive contribution too from the swivel-hipped Michael Duffy on the right-wing, while McMillan led the line with typical selflessness and courage, even if he held his head at seeing a late penalty saved.
It was McMillan who nodded Dundalk in front in the 19th minute, ghosting in unattended to head home Duffy’s free-kick from close range – it was a rare slack moment by the Leinster Senior League side, who might have gone in front themselves earlier through Ger ‘Buzzer’ Rowe.
Despite the setback, Crumlin responded and were level within three minutes. After Shields fouled Dean Hurley just outside the box, Jake Donnelly left Rogers flatfooted with a sublime left-foot delivery.
If that set-piece strike was good, there was better to come from Hoare just past the half-hour mark when he gathered possession just inside the Crumlin half, stepped forward and then let fly with a right-footer which rifled into the top corner past Mikey Quinn.
At 2-1, Crumlin still had hope but Dundalk were firmly on the front foot and the coupe de grace applied by Kinsella with a cushioned left foot volley, after yet another Duffy delivery, gave a sense of proportion to the scoreline.
‘We beat Crumlin 5-0 last year but today was different, this was a match. We can play a lot better but were though and I’m pleased for Sean Hoare and Steven Kinsella to score their first goals for the club,’ said Kenny.
STEP TOO FAR: Dean Hurley battles Shane Grimes of Dundalk