Dundalk FC's Jamie McGrath and Gordan Walker of Cobh Ramblers during Friday night's Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup clash at Oriel Park. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup
Dundalk FC 3-0 Cobh Ramblers
Dundalk FC progressed to the second round of the FAI Cup with a comfortable victory over Cobh Ramblers at Oriel Park on Friday night.
A sluggish performance for lengthy spells, Ronan Murray's goal on 31 minutes broke the deadlock and from there the outcome was in little doubt, especially after Jamie McGrath added his name to the scoresheet early in the second half.
“It wasn’t our best performance, but you’re not going to win the league with 11 players and we needed players who haven’t been playing to get minutes,” said Stephen Kenny of his team’s display.
“We started slowly, but as it progressed we played better and we’re through, that’s the main thing.”
Cobh, in fairness, offered a threat, but many of their openings came as a result of sloppy play by the hosts as the Dundalk's stuttering form continued into their second meeting with the Cork side in five days.
Stephen Kenny retained only three players in his starting line-up from Monday's EA Sports Cup semi-final loss, with Daniel Cleary, Karolis Chvedukas and Murray the mutual inclusions.
But the alterations in personnel didn't inflate the Lilywhites as Cobh, who made limited changes, weathered an early flurry before settling into their groove, going close through Jaze Kabia and particularly Shane O'Connor, whose vicious shot whistled narrowly wide.
Typically, Michael Duffy was involved in the move which earned Dundalk the lead. His 21st assist of a stellar campaign, the winger's ball across the six-yard box handed Murray the simple task of converting to the empty net.
Leading by that strike at the break, McGrath neatly found the bottom corner six minutes into the second period to double the advantage, showing inside before wrong-footing Adam Mylod with a shot beneath a glut of Cobh defenders.
Stephen Henderson's underdogs almost halved the deficit midway through when winger Denzil Fernandes stung the palms of Gary Rogers. The Lilywhites finished the stronger, though, and should have extended the gap on multiple occasions, with Daniel Cleary and Georgie Kelly, among others, unable to convert.
But a third goal would eventually arrive six minutes from time when Murray directed Seán Gannon's right-wing delivery to the bottom corner as the 10-time winners move into last night’s draw, avoiding a repeat of their 1983 FAI Cup loss to the Rams.
They also went some way to atoning for the recent EA Sports semi-final loss to Cobh, a result which “embarrassed” Kenny.
When asked if the latest victory would lift his players out of their so-called ‘post-European slump’, the Dubliner said: “We’ve nothing to apologise for. The players made some mistakes which can happen. People need to get real.
“On the other side of it, there was a huge effort from everyone in the town, a massive effort (in support of the team in Europe), and I must say that I’m touched and encouraged by the huge effort of the residents, the business owners and people driving in cars with flags.
“We were in the following morning for training and I saw people with cars with flags coming by me and I felt a bit embarrassed having lost down in Cobh.
“We’re on the most successful run in the club for 100 years, but I did feel embarrassed."
Dundalk FC: Gary Rogers; Seán Gannon, Brian Gartland, Daniel Cleary, Dean Jarvis; Karolis Chvedukas, Robbie Benson (Dane Massey 58); Jamie McGrath, Ronan Murray, Michael Duffy (Dylan Connolly 68); Georgie Kelly (Sam Byrne 76)
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (gk), George Poynton, Chris Shields, Patrick Hoban
Cobh Ramblers: Adam Mylod; Kevin Taylor, Gordan Walker, James McSweeney, Ian Mylod; Shane O'Connor, Ben O'Riordan (Craig Donnellan 74); Denzil Fernandes, David Hurley (Cian Leonard 61), Stephen Christopher (Stephen Kenny 67); Jaze Kabia
Subs not used: Charlie Fleming, Liam Cronin, Matt Lamb
Referee: Rob Rogers (Dublin)
Attendance: 2,214 (official)