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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Paul Lennon

Dundalk 4 Drogheda United 1: Darragh Leahy proves an unlikely matchwinner with brace in derby cruise

WHAT is seldom was certainly wonderful for two goal Darragh Leahy at Oriel Park tonight as Dundalk ultimately cruised to derby success.

This 54th victory for The Lilywhites in the 99th league meeting between the great Louth rivals further energises Stephen O'Donnell's side's quest for European football next year.

For left full Leahy, the glory was more immediate for he had not found the net since 2018 when he scored for Bohemians against Galway United in the FAI Cup and stunned Shamrock Rovers with an injury time Premier Division strike at Tallaght Stadium.

Leahy struck either side of the interval with Pat Hoban adding the third from a hotly disputed 58th minute penalty and substitute John Martin confidently beating Sam Long with an injury time effort following Ryan Brennan's 87th minute reply.

The home win was as emphatic as the scoreline suggests although the home side struggled to find any real rhythm in a first half best forgotten.

When Keith Ward did so after the break to back up Greg Sloggett's input in the middle of the park, Drogheda had little response until they fell three behind when the game was beyond them.

The victory sends Dundalk up to third place in the table although it would be hard to suggest on this evidence that a title bid beckons.

One of the few moments of quality in the first half produced Dundalk's breakthrough goal in the 39th minute.

Darragh Nugent's foul on Daniel Kelly 28 yards from goal earned the Drogheda midfielder a yellow card and presented Ward with the opportunity to strike the crossbar with a stunning curling set piece.

Leahy hungrily pounced on the rebound to head home from seven yards, exploiting United defender's laxity in anticipating what might transpire from Ward's shot.

Until then, Sloggett had tried hard to inspire the home side that was not short of endeavour but lacking a real spark of creativity.

United's game plan was resolutely rooted in seeking to frustrate the home side which was out of kilter of most of their recent displays that had seen them push forward in spells.

This all combined to formulate a derby that was scrappy and not helped by referee Sean Grant who missed a few obvious fouls - mainly at Dundalk's expense until this point .

Early second half errors by respective central defenders Andy Boyle and Sean Roughan were not capitalised upon by the opposition with Ward's burst of pace not matched by his finish.

However, Ward would soon be key to Dundalk's third goal in the 58th minute when his low cross was handled low at close range by Keith Cowan with Patrick Hoban rifling his low spot kick home.

How the Drogheda defender was supposed to get his arm out of what was a completely natural position without instant on-pitch surgery is something that only the man in the middle can explain.

By this stage United were already two goals down with Leahy having ghosted in unmarked at the far post to slide home Lewis Macari's low cross from the right in the 51st minute.

Hoban's spot kick threatened to open the sluice gates at the Town End goal with Daniel Kelly denied a spectacular volleyed goal from Ward's delightful cross.

Sloggett's fine evening's work was almost rewarded by a fourth goal when keeper Sam Long needed to be alert to tip his cross over the bar in the 75th minute.

United's belated response gave Dundalk a few anxious moments and sloppy defending allowed Dylan Grimes to tee up Ryan Brennan for an 87th minute consolation goal.

But Dundalk had the final word with Martin's cool low finish restoring their three goal winning margin.

Dundalk: Shepperd 7; Macari 7, Connolly 6 (Gartland 6 64), Boyle 7, Leahy 8; Sloggett 8 (Bone 77), Doyle 6; Adams 6, Ward 8 (O'Kane 85), Kelly 7 (Martin 77); Hoban 6 (McMillan 77). Subs - Cherrie, Mountney, animasahun, Hanratty.

Drogheda United: Long 7; Quinn 6, Cowan 6, Roughan 6, Massey 7; Heeney 6, Deegan 7; Poynton 6 (Grimes 5 64), Nugent 5 (Brennan 6 55), Rooney 6 (Boudiaf 85); Lyons 6 (Clarke 6 64). Subs - McCabe, , Davis, Williams.

Referee: S Grant 5

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