Mark Quigley sent an emphatic message to the watching Damien Richardson as he grabbed his first hat-trick in Dundalk colours as they equalled their biggest ever victory over Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds on Tuesday evening, Ian Foster’s side ignoring the history books with a magnificent 5-1 win. Quigley and Danny O’Connor traded blows in the opening 25 minutes but the game turned on its head on the half-hour mark as Joe Kendrick was sent-off for a foul in the box on Quigley, who stood up to send Matt Gregg the wrong way. Gregg then gifted him a hat-trick on the stroke of half-time – as he repeated his feat against the Seagulls in March 2007 – before he turned provider in the second half for Mark Griffin to grab his sixth league goal in eight starts. Keith Ward then iced the cake with a superb strike deep in injury-time.
Foster selected the same team that annihilated Galway United 6-1 on Friday night, with Colin Hawkins unavailable while Jason Byrne didn’t make the bench, the pair ruled out with hamstring injuries. However, after a couple of early free-kicks for the home side, it was the Lilywhites who hit the front on ten minutes. Quigley, who was omitted from Richardson’s Airtricity League squad on Monday, showed individual class as he picked up possession close to the halfway line and skipped past the Bray defence before finding space on the edge of the box, the 25-year-old clinically firing past ex-Lilywhite goalkeeper Gregg. Bray responded well from that but Dundalk were holding firm, the home side’s next efforts coming from Dane Massey and Conor Murphy who both failed to trouble Peter Cherrie.
However, Bray were back on level terms on 26 minutes when Chris Shields got down the right and crossed to the back post where Danny O’Connor was left free, giving him an easy task to head to the net. Straight away, Dundalk looked to get back in the lead and Quigley had a penalty claim waved away before a cross from Ross Gaynor was blocked behind as he searched for Griffin in the box. Then came the massive turning point as, just before the half-hour mark, Quigley got into the box and was clipped by Kendrick as he was about to shoot past Gregg, with referee Anthony Buttimer pointing to the spot and dismissing the former Drogheda United left-back. Quigley dispatched with ease as he sent Gregg the wrong way for Dundalk’s 50th competitive goal of the season. The 25-year-old almost grabbed his hat-trick moments later but the ball bounced behind him, with the ‘keeper gathering.
He then set up Ward, 25-yards out, but he attempted to play a through-ball to Griffin instead of shooting, the pass in the end going harmlessly wide of the goal. At the other end, despite being down a man, Bray threatened, with a free-kick eventually falling to John Mulroy at the back post but Dean Bennett blocked behind. A minute before the break, Quigley had his hat-trick. Daniel Kearns, with the overlapping Simon Madden to his right, cut inside and laid off to Quigley on the edge of the box. His low shot was straight at Gregg but it squirmed through his legs to gave Dundalk a commanding cushion at the break. The lively Quigley was at it again at the beginning of the second half as he tried the spectacular from Madden’s delivery from the right but he was unlucky not to connect properly. He then combined with Griffin but Gregg saved.
On 58 minutes, Ward played in Griffin and he controlled well before forcing his former teammate into a superb save. A minute later, it should have been 3-2 as Gary Dempsey’s quickly-taken free-kick found Shields in acres of space eight-yards out but he somehow headed wide. On 64 minutes, Gaynor should also have scored but Gregg blocked. Bray continued to look for a way back into the game on 66 minutes as a ball into the box was knocked down into the path of Murphy but from a good position he fired a tame shot straight at Cherrie. However, a minute later, the game was over as Quigley this time turned provider, slipping in Griffin who remained extremely cool, yet again, to finish to the net. On 74 minutes, Gregg produced heroics to save from Bennett as Dundalk threatened to run riot, before Griffin also had a chance at the back post, this time the task much easier for the Bray No1. It could have been any score by the end of it, with substitute Johnny Breen denied a goal through offside, but Ward iced the cake with an unbelievable strike in the 94th minute, a curling effort from the left of the box going in off the far upright.
BRAY WANDERERS AFC: Matt Gregg, Derek Prendergast, Shane O’Connor, Stephen Last (Dave Webster HT), Joe Kendrick, Danny O’Connor (Seán Houston 71), Gary Dempsey, Chris Shields, Dane Massey, John Mulroy (Shane O’Neill 56), Conor Murphy.
Goal: D O’Connor (26).
Sent-Off: J Kendrick (29).
Unused Subs: Brian Kane (GK), Daire Doyle, Dan McGuinness, Graham Kelly.
DUNDALK FC: Peter Cherrie; Simon Madden ©, Dean Bennett, Shane Guthrie, Nathan Murphy; Daniel Kearns (Stephen Maher 74), Greg Bolger, Keith Ward, Ross Gaynor; Mark Quigley (Chris Kerr 87), Mark Griffin (Johnny Breen 76).
Goals: M Quigley (10, 30 pen, 44), M Griffin (67), K Ward (90+4).
Booked: M Griffin (36), R Gaynor (62).
Unused Subs: Paul Murphy (GK), Philip Duffy.
Referee: Anthony Buttimer (Cork).