HEROES

Gavin McLaughlin

Reporter:

Gavin McLaughlin

Dundalk players acknowledge the applause of the fans as they return the compliment after they defeated Cork City in a 4-0 rout in the last home game of the season at Oriel Park
There may have been no league trophy on show but there were jubilant scenes at Oriel Park on Friday night as Dundalk brought the curtain down on their home campaign with a sumptuous display of attacking football against Cork City.

There may have been no league trophy on show but there were jubilant scenes at Oriel Park on Friday night as Dundalk brought the curtain down on their home campaign with a sumptuous display of attacking football against Cork City.

Richie Towell and Patrick Hoban - who have possibly got the makings of becoming a modern day equivalent of a Barry Kehoe and Dessie Gorman - both scored contenders for the Goal of the Season award as the Lilywhites tightened their grip on the runners-up spot.

Hoban and Towell were last week nominated for both the PFAI Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards and they showed why; hitting two of the finest goals seen at the Carrick Road ground in many a year. Anyone who was lucky enough to witness them will certainly not find it easy to wipe them from the memory.

After the disappointment of seeing St Patrick’s Athletic take the title last Sunday, the club - dissimilar to recent years when under the previous owner it seemed to stumble from one disaster to another - responded with a masterclass in PR by announcing that 10 of the current squad had already put pen to paper for next season.

That gave the supporters renewed hope and optimism and the mood at kick-off was one of pride at the renaissance of the club this season and renewed hope that this squad, put together by Stephen Kenny, can go one better next year.

With 10 of the 11 Dundalk players on display knowing that their future was secure, the hosts asked all the questions early on with Andy Boyle and Hoban passing up good chances to open the scoring.

As the game approached the half hour mark it seemed only a matter of time before Dundalk hit the front and they did so in some fashion after 36 minutes.

Nothing seemed on when Towell picked the ball up some 30-yards from goal but the midfielder let fly with a rocket that flew into Mark McNulty’s top corner.

If Towell’s strike was sensational, then there were few superlatives that could do justice to Hoban’s goal in first-half stoppage time.

Again, the Cork City goal looked safe from harm as the ball looped into the air on the edge of the 18-yard box but Hoban somehow managed to get up and guide an incredible bicycle kick past the stunned McNulty.

Kenny’s side showed no let up at the start of the second-half and McNulty was left helpless again after 48 minutes when his centre-back Garry Buckley deflected a header into his own net.

The unfortunate Buckley was involved again for the wrong reasons six minutes later. His horrendous misplaced pass fell straight into the path of John Mountney but McNulty did well to stop the midfielder’s effort, sparing Buckley another embarrassing moment.

Ciaran Kilduff and Danny Morrissey both had half chances for the Leesiders but the home side continued to play some fine football, carving City open at will.

McNulty had to be at his best again to deny Hoban and Towell in quick succession as the game approached the final 20 minutes and Hoban should have doubled his tally when he flashed a free header over the bar from yet another corner kick.

The icing was put on the cake in stoppage time when John Dillon curled another beautiful effort past McNulty.

The final whistle blew soon after and the 1700 plus fans who braved the dismal conditions stayed in the ground, clapping and lavishing praise on the players, the back room staff and the manager who have reinstalled belief in this famous old club.

12 months ago, Dundalk Football Club was teetering on the brink; under new owners and under Kenny it has been reborn.

It will be five months before a ball is kicked again at Oriel Park but already people are counting down until the 2014 season kicks off. That sums up the feeling around the club at the minute. It is a joy to behold.