Dundalk’s bid for a 10th League of Ireland Premier Division title got off to the worst possible start as they were dismantled 4-1 by Drogheda United in the Louth derby at United Park on Friday night.
The visitors started the better of the two Louth clubs and they missed a great chance to open the scoring in the 8th minute when Kurtis Byrne dragged his shot wide after a neat exchange of passes with Patrick Hoban.
The high tempo start continued from Stephen Kenny’s side and Stephen O’Donnell’s devilish ball across face of goal was met by Daryl Horgan but, under good pressure from Shane Grimes, he flashed the ball over the top.
Horgan then squandered the best chance of the half in the 26th minute. Richie Towell’s delightful pass invited the winger to run in behind Grimes. Horgan beat the advancing David Ryan but his lob bounced agonisingly wide of the post.
The Boynesiders drew first-blood in the 38th minute. O’Donnell hauled Gary O’Neill down 25-yards from goal and Eric Foley stepped up to leave Peter Cherrie with no chance as the ball flew into the top right hand corner.
Two goals in the space of four second-half minutes left Dundalk with a mountain to climb.
The Lilywhites crossbar was still reverberating from an Alan McNally header seconds earlier when Gavin Brennan arrived at the back post in the 50th minute to meet a Michael Daly cross and find the net.
The game was all but put to bed four minutes later. Shane Grimes whipped in a brilliant cross from the left and when the ball was hooked back into the danger zone, Declan O’Brien on hand to sweep home from close range.
Dundalk were given a bit of hope when Hoban rose to meet a Darren Meenan delivery to squeeze his header past Ryan in the 63rd minute.
However, the fightback was short lived and the hosts made sure of the three points when O’Brien stooped to head home Brennan’s deep free-kick four minutes later.
The gloss was taken off Drogheda’s win late on when Gavin Brennan was shown a red card for a crude tackle on O’Donnell with four minutes to play.
DROGHEDA UNITED: Schlingerman (Ryan 12); Daly, Andrews, McNally, Grimes; Brady (Walshe 73), O’Neill, Brennan, Doyle; O’Brien (McCann 90), Foley.
DUNDALK: Cherrie; Gannon (Mountney 80), Boyle, Shields, Massey; O’Donnell, Higgins (Meenan 55); Horgan, Towell, Byrne (McMillan 59); Hoban.
REFEREE: Derek Tomney.