Ciaran Callan at the RSC, Waterford.
With this week all things Dundalk FC and the Cup, the Lilywhites know the Semi-Final place at stake at the RSC was another step in what is the clubs course to a historic treble. While a lot of football is yet to be placed before now and the beginning of November, Dundalk knows the next few weeks are vital on all fronts. While last Friday’s match was another massive step in the quest for the retention of the SSE Airtricity League title, tonight could see another massive step closer to another Aviva date for the fifth consecutive year.
Dundalk made six changes from the side that beat Cork City last Friday. Arron McCarey, Brian Gartland, Cameron Dummigan, Daniel Kelly and Dane Massey all came into the side as Vinny Perth used the full depth of his squad.
The first attack with a purpose came from the visitors as Patrick Hoban hit a low shot from range but Connor was equal to the effort. He parried it away from the onrushing Daniel Kelly. Kelly wouldn’t have to wait long for a second opportunity as he was on hand to convert another Hoban assist. Kenny Browne chested the ball down badly midway through his own half and Pat Hoban picked up the loose ball and where he raced to the byline and crossed it into the area to Daniel Kelly who smashed it past Connor to give Dundalk the lead.
Midway through the first half Hoban and Kelly would like up again as Hoban hooked the ball forward and Kelly broke free of the defence and Kelly somehow squeezed the ball past Connor at the near post to extend the lead. That goal was Kelly’s tenth goal for Dundalk in what has been an impressive debut season. Jamie McGrath was next on hand on goal but his long-range effort as he spotted Matthew Connor off his line, the shot was dipping but it just sailed over the bar.
Waterford nearly got back into the game when Lynch sent in a great ball into the box to Rory Feely whose header looped over McCarey and the ball landed just on the outside of the post. An inch the other way and Feely would have scored an excellent goal.
Dundalk, however, added a third and when a brilliant build-up play with some excellent pass and move saw McEleney sent in a deft ball into the area and Kelly scored his third goal of the night and completed his second hat trick for Dundalk.
Waterford had the perfect opportunity to get back into the tie when Michael O’Connor had a big chance to pull one back after the ball broke to him with McCarey off his line but he fired over and then they were awarded a penalty. Shane Duggan stepped up to take the spot-kick only for Aaron McCarey to get down brilliantly to save.
Dundalk continued to press and Cameron Dummingan sent in an excellent cross which Hoban headed brilliantly but it sailed over the bar.
The second half started with a flurry with Waterford nearly getting one back a free-kick sent into the area by Poynton was headed powerfully by Kenny Browne at the back post but McCarey did fantastic to block and save the effort. Dundalk then tested Matthew Connor when McEleney to leave Kevin Lynch in his wake and curled a great effort goalwards but Connor did well to pick the ball out despite the best intentions of Jamie McGrath to head it past him. McGrath had another chance moments later when Dummigan sent in another teasing cross which the Dundalk number 10 just headed over.
Waterford got one back when a corner from the left was headed clear by Gartland but it was headed back over the head of McCarey by Kouogun to give Waterford a lifeline. Michael O’Connor sensing that the game was for the taking broke free of the Dundalk defence under a high ball but his effort flashed wide much to the relief of the away side.
Dundalk and Waterford continued to trade blows and while the home side threatened there was none of note that could test Aaron McCarey. If Duggan had of converted the penalty the game’s perception could have been completely different. The game got physical with no holds barred from either side as is typical of any cup tie. The pick of the chances fell to Waterford with Georgie Poynton trying his luck with a free-kick from 35 yards, which was deflected but saved comfortably by McCarey. Robbie Benson’s teasing cross was nearly met by the onrushing Georgie Kelly but it was well caught by Connor.
Dundalk despite the hard work in the second half progress to the Semi-Finals and they are potentially ninety minutes away from the Aviva Stadium again. But a lot of hard work done, a lot more to do.
Waterford FC: Matthew Connor, Rory Feely, Kevin Lynch, Shane Duggan (JJ Lunney) , Kenny Browne, Maxim Kouogun, Michael O’Connor, Georgie Poynton, Will Fitzgerald (Cory Galvin), Sam Bone (Dean O’Halloran), Walter Figueria.
Subs not used: Tom Holland, Rob Slevin, Darragh Power, Paul Martin.
Dundalk FC: Aaron McCarey, Brian Gartland, Sean Hoare, Chris Shields, Michael Duffy, Pat Hoban (Georgie Kelly), Jamie McGrath, Patrick McEleney, Dane Massey, Cameron Dummigan (Sean Gannon), Daniel Kelly (Robbie Benson).
Subs not used: Lido Lotefa, Dean Jarvis, Andy Boyle, Gary Rogers.
Booked: Georgie Poynton, Michael O’Connor
Referee: Paul Tuite