Seán Hoare (Dundalk) beats Limerick's Rodrigo Tosi to the ball. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
SSE Airtricity League Premier Division
Dundalk 3-0 Limerick
Dundalk put in a stirring second-half performance to comfortably see off Limerick's challenge at Oriel Park tonight - with Patrick McEleney once again stealing the show.
Brian Gartland and Robbie Benson were Dundalk's other goalscorers on a night where they never looked troubled despite the absence of Dane Massey from their backline
McEleney - one of three changes from the Dundalk side which drew with Sligo Rovers - left the pitch after 84 minutes to a standing ovation having picked up where he left off in the home European leg with Rosenborg.
The attacker was unplayable at times, particularly during the second-half where both he and Michael Duffy lived up to their billing as Dundalk's most technically astute assets.
Dylan Connolly was another to impress in the second-half as The Lilywhites kept up their four-year unbeaten streak against the Shannonsiders.
The opening goal came on 32 minutes through a familiar source. Having drawn the free-kick with an incisive run, McEleney picked himself up to clip the ball back across goal and into the top left-hand corner of the net.
It was a beautiful strike - at the same end to where to where he scored the only goal when the sides last met on the Carrick Road earlier in the year - and one which left visiting 'keeper Brendan Clarke with no chance of saving.
The goal - McEleney's ninth league strike of the season - helped Dundalk to a slender half-time advantage.
Though it was one they wholly merited on the basis of Limerick's unwillingness to commit themselves to attack, Dundalk were far from vintage in the opening-half with the goal being their one and only first-half effort on target.
Stephen Kenny's half-time chat had the desired effect as the hosts attacked the town-end goals in the second-half. There was an immediate lift in their intensity from the first-period with McEleney and particularly Duffy upping their levels considerably.
Gartland's 53rd minute header - from a Duffy delivery after Dylan Connolly was fouled - doubled the advantage and when the centre-half met another sweet delivery from the winger three-minutes later, Dundalk got their third as Benson diverted the goalbound effort past the stranded Brendan Clarke.
Duffy and David McMillan had further chances before the close as The Lilywhites toyed with their opponents for much of the second-half.
Limerick unleashed a few late efforts on goal, none of which had Gary Rogers in any trouble, as the home team eased over the winning line.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Seán Gannon, Brian Gartland, Seán Hoare, Niclas Vemmelund; Chris Shields, Robbie Benson (Stephen O’Donnell 68); Dylan Connolly, Patrick McEleney (John Mountney 84), Michael Duffy; David McMillan (Jamie McGrath 76)
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (gk), Shane Grimes, Conor Clifford, Steven Kinsella
Booked: Connolly (88)
Limerick: Brendan Clarke; Barry Cotter (Stephen Kenny 66), Tony Whitehead, Joe Crowe, David O’Connor; Lee J Lynch, Shane Duggan, Henry Cameron (Bastien Hery 64); Dean Clarke, Rodrigo Tosi (John O’Flynn 83), Chiedozie Ogbene
Subs not used: Freddy Hall (gk), Shane Tracy, Garbhan Coughlan, Killian Brouder
Booked: O'Connor (53)
Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin)