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Saturday 3 December 2016

Dundalk have the final say

Dundalk 2 0 Longford Town

Dundalk’s Chris Shields (l) in action against Longford Town’s Stephen Rice during the FAI Cup semi-final at Oriel Park last night.
Dundalk’s Chris Shields (l) in action against Longford Town’s Stephen Rice during the FAI Cup semi-final at Oriel Park last night.

They have played better, in more entertaining games.

But all that counts for Dundalk today is that their pursuit of a first double since 1988 is on course, Stephen Kenny's side on their way to the FAI Cup final for the first time in 13 years.

A goal in each half, one from a set piece and the other a very lucky deflection, allowed Dundalk get the better of Longford Town in last night's semi-final in front of 3,526 fans at Oriel Park. This 2-0 win tees up what could be a remarkable seven days for the Co Louth club as a win away to Shamrock Rovers next Friday will secure the league title - a pretty good time to be a Lilywhites fan.

"It's great to have the final to look forward to, it will be a great day," said Dundalk captain Stephen O'Donnell.

"It wasn't the best of games but semi-finals are not usually great games, you are edgy and you just want to get there, so we got the job done

"We hope to finish off the league next week, we know Rovers won't want is to win it there in Tallaght, and we know the league's not won yet, we lose all our games and Cork win theirs, they can get the league. We just focused on Longford this week, now we look to Rovers."

The goals had flowed for Dundalk in the FAI Cup this season, but Stephen Kenny found it harder to conjure up a goal against his former club, the place where he made his mark in management having taken over as Longford boss when he was just 27.

The home side could have been a goal up as early as the fifth minute, had Ciarán Kilduff been a bit smarter with his finish when he had the goal at his mercy, and soon after that Longford keeper Paul Skinner needed to pull off a couple of saves to keep out Richie Towell and John Mountney.

Towell served up a moment of danger of 31 minutes when he struck the crossbar and just as it seemed as if Longford could at least hold out until half time without conceding, the league leaders got their lead goal.

A set piece but that did the trick here, Paddy Barrett getting his head to Daryl Horgan's corner kick and while Pat Sullivan was on the line and well-placed to get in a block, there was too much power in Barrett's effort for Sullivan to make any difference.

Longford had struggled to get make an impact but Dundalk scored their second goal three minutes into the second half, nothing would stop Kenny's side from going on to the club's first Cup final appearance since 2002.

The second goal had more than a touch of fortune about it as Ronan Finn's effort seemed to be going wide but it took a wicked deflection off the back of Town defender Sullivan and went past the grasp of keeper Skinner.

Now 2-0 ahead, there was no way Dundalk were about to let slip a November day out at Lansdowne Road,

A Lorcan Shannon shot on 66 minutes showed that Longford still posed a threat of sorts and David O'Sullivan came off the bench for Longford but there was little he or his team-mates could do to turn things around.

So, Dundalk march on to that November date for the Cup final but a win in Tallaght next weekend will put that elusive double very much in their grip.

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