Barry Davies struck two first-half goals and Ciarán O’Connor added another to power Dundalk Youths into the Ferrari Cup decider for the third year running, following the most comprehensive of 3-0 victories over Shamrock Rovers in their semi-final at Oriel Park on Saturday afternoon.
Dundalk dominated from the outset and they went close past the quarter-hour when Davies’ corner found the head of centre-half Paul Finnegan but his effort was cleared off the line.
O’Connor then somehow scooped the ball over in the six-yard box after connecting with Scott Craven’s in-swinging free-kick.
The lead goal came shortly after when Craven and O’Connor combined, with the latter’s low delivery across the box finding Davies who, with plenty of time and space, shot to the top corner.
O’Connor was again the creator for the second five minutes before the break when he latched onto Kevin Nolan’s pass and got into the box where he was fouled, but Davies was on hand to tap in, with no need for the penalty.
Into the second half, Davies’ cross again found Finnegan at the back post but this time the ‘keeper did brilliantly to push his header away, although he could do nothing four minutes later when O’Connor blasted to the net after running onto Craven’s through-ball.
Rovers threatened rarely, and it could have been a wider margin of victory for the home side, with captain Ryan Duffy twice, O’Connor and substitute Michael Gray all going close to adding a fourth.
Dundalk were on the front foot from early on and in the opening seconds Roy Kierans fired a free-kick over the bar from 25-yards.
The first real chance came on five minutes when O’Connor set Craven free on the left but he was driven wide by a defender, with his shot from a difficult angle saved.
After Duffy’s cross, O’Connor and Nolan both had shots blocked, before Craven fired wide from just outside the box after the ball had broken invitingly to him on 12 minutes.
On 17 minutes, Finnegan’s header was cleared off the line en-route to the corner of the net after a good corner delivery from Davies and, shortly after, O’Connor somehow diverted the ball over from close range after a Craven free-kick.
Then Rovers had their first effort on goal when a 35-yard free-kick took a deflection on the way, home ‘keeper Johnny Connolly gathering for the first time, before the Hoops threatened again when a cross from the right found one of their players at the back post but he blasted wide when well placed.
But Dundalk quickly regained the initiative and they hit the front on 27 minutes when Craven got down the right and found O’Connor in the box, he in turn putting a low delivery across the face of goal, with Davies on hand to fire to the top corner.
The lead was doubled 13 minutes later when Nolan fed O’Connor and he did superbly to get into the box, holding off a defender and forcing a foul, but the ball fell to Davies four-yards out and he tapped in.
Early in the second half, Cody Magill fired over from the edge of the box and Rovers went close with a free-kick.
Then Davies’ cross on the hour found Finnegan at the back but his header was clawed out by the ‘keeper, and then Nolan drove a shot off target.
The game was soon over as a contest, though, when Craven’s neat through-ball found O’Connor in behind the backline and he drilled low past the ‘keeper.
With no sign of a Rovers revival, manager Alan Browne was afforded the opportunity to give goalkeeper Ruairí McDaid a run-out.
Dundalk continued to attack, and Duffy saw a free-kick from 25-yards fly just wide, before O’Connor had a shot blocked in the box.
Ten minutes from time, it should have been 4-0 when another Davies free-kick found the head of Nolan at the back, the ‘keeper fumbling the ball into the path of Duffy but somehow from two-yards out he diverted it up onto the bar and away.
In the final moments, Gray’s header was saved on the line, as Dundalk had to be content with three goals, with the young Lilywhites now hoping it will be third time lucky having finished as runners-up in this competition in the last two years.
Dundalk Youths: Johnny Connolly (Ruairí McDaid 68), Manny Kaguako, Paul Finnegan, Cillian Mulligan, Roy Kierans, Barry Davies (Stephen Boothman 82), Kevin Nolan, Cody Magill (Michael Gray 57), Scott Craven (Stephen McQuillan 87), Ryan Duffy © (Gavin Gaffey 82), Ciarán O’Connor.