Stephen Kenny’s decision to hand Tiarnan Mulvenna just his second league start of the campaign paid off handsomely as the local striker played a major part in Dundalk’s 2-0 win over Bohemians at Dalymount Park on Friday night.
Mulvenna put Dundalk on their way to a historic win by hooking the ball home from close range in the 19th minute before Richie Towell - who set up Mulvenna’s opener with a blistering free-kick - sealed the win late on for the Lilywhites.
Dundalk have now won their opening four away league games of the season, all of which have come in Dublin. This feat has not been achieved in 43 years.
And if you include the Leinster Senior Cup win over Sheriff YC, Kenny’s new look side have created history by becoming the first Dundalk FC side in the club’s 87-year history to win their first five competitive away games on the trot; a magnificent feat for a newly assembled squad.
Kenny reacted to last week’s 3-1 defeat by Derry City by making just a solitary change with Mulvenna given the nod alongside Vinny Faherty in attack. Kurtis Byrne dropped to the bench.
Dundalk looked to exploit Mulvenna’s pace in behind the Gypsies defence and he almost helped the visitors to an early lead after four minutes.
Keith Ward’s incisive pass set the 24-year-old away but Bohs keeper Dean Delany rushed from his box to clear only for the loose ball to fall invitingly for John Dillon who saw his first time return kiss the top of the crossbar.
As well as Bohs, Dundalk had to contend with the Dalymount pitch which has been the focus of heavy criticism in recent weeks. From the press box, the divots and craters on the surface could easily be seen.
Undeterred, Dundalk continued to try and play football with Kenny deploying a more orthodox 4-4-2 system with Dillon and Ward operating on the flanks.
They took a deserved lead after 20 minutes. Richie Towell’s 30-yard free-kick looked like food and drink for Delany but he could only parry the ball and Mulvenna was on hand to hook the ball home from close range.
Many of the Bohs fans were unhappy with Delany’s handling for the goal but the ‘keeper redeemed himself with two fine stops in quick succession as Dundalk set about taking a stranglehold on the game.
Mulvenna, with confidence flowing through his veins, was denied a second goal in the 23rd minute; Delany making a fantastic fingertip save down to his left. And from the resulting corner, Dillon cut in to drive a powerful drive towards the top corner which the Bohs number one touched over the bar.
Aaron Callaghan’s side were offered little respite as the Lilywhites continued on the front foot and they should have went 2-0 ahead just shy of the half hour. Ward’s free-kick from the left cleared everybody except Mulvenna but he misjudged the flight of the ball with the full goal at his mercy.
Such was Dundalk’s control that Peter Cherrie was a virtual spectator in the first-half. The Scot, who had just a 9th minute Ryan McEvoy free-kick to contend with, even had time to applaud the visiting support who made plenty of noise as their side coasted into the dressing room full value for their lead.
Callaghan introduced David Scully and Chris Lyons at the break in a bid to get his side back into things but it was Dundalk who threatened at the other end. Ward again set up Mulvenna but his deft effort was again matched by Delany.
The home support grew even more frustrated at the second-half progressed. The Gypsies never looked like breaking through and when they did create some half chances Dundalk were on hand to close the door.
An example came in the 58th minute, just seconds after Mulvenna failed to control an O’Donnell pass with Bohs outnumbered at the back. Play switched to the other end but when Ryan McBride found space to shoot, the excellent Mark Rossiter was on hand to make a great block.
Bohs were given some more encouragement six minutes later. Richie Towell’s pass caught Dane Massey on the hop but John Sullivan covered well to clear after Scully had opted to take a touch instead of letting fly.
With just the minimum between the teams, Dundalk fans would have liked the insurance of a second goal and they should have had it after 69 minutes. Stephen O’Donnell’s pass cut the Bohemians back four open but Mulvenna couldn’t beat Delany with his toe poke.
The game was finally put to bed in the 79th minute. Towell’s drive from 25-yards took a wicked deflection off Roberto Lopes and Delany had no chance as the ball rolled into the net.
BOHEMIANS: Dean Delany; Michael Barker, Roberto Lopes, Stephen Paisley, Luke Byrne; Karl Moore, Shane Murray (David Scully HT), Ryan McEvoy (Conor O’Brien 75), Derek Pender ©, Ciaran Nangle; Kevin Devaney (Chris Lyons HT). Unused subs: Keith Buckley, Michael Scott, Shane Fitzgerald, Greg Murray (GK).
DUNDALK FC: Peter Cherrie; John Sullivan, Andy Boyle, Mark Rossiter ©, Dane Massey; John Dillon, Richie Towell, Stephen O’Donnell, Keith Ward (John Mountney 63); Vinny Faherty (Patrick Hoban 80), Tiarnan Mulvenna (Darren Meenan 73). Unused subs: Kurtis Byrne, Stephen McDonnell, Sami Osobe, Aaron Shanahan (GK).
REFEREE: Tom Connolly.