Cliftonville 1-3 Dundalk: Report
Mark Quigley produced two sensational strikes to fire Dundalk to a valuable 3-1 victory over Cliftonville in the first leg of the sides’ Setanta Sports Cup semi-final tie at Solitude in Belfast on Monday night, as they recovered from George McMullan’s first-half effort. McMullan had given the hosts the lead on 25 minutes when he found his fifth goal of this season’s competition. However, three minutes after the break, Quigley unleashed an unstoppable dipping effort from 25-yards, before Daniel Kearns saw his weak shot squirm under stand-in ‘keeper Jack Duffin, who replaced regular netminder John Connolly. There was nothing Duffin could do about Quigley’s first, nor his second, as, on 82 minutes, he linked up with Jason Byrne on the edge of the box before picking his spot, hitting the top corner from 20-yards.
With Greg Bolger, Stephen Maher, Eoghan Osborne and Dean Bennett ruled out through injury, manager Ian Foster had little room for manoeuvre in selection, and Dundalk started with the same XI that defeated UCD at Oriel Park three days earlier. After a quiet start, the first chance of the game came on seven minutes when Cliftonville captain Chris Scannell found himself in behind the visiting defence but goalkeeper Peter Cherrie produced a fantastic tackle with his feet before gathering. Moments later, McMullan fired wildly off target from distance. Cliftonville were holding possession better, and before the quarter-hour mark Stephen Garrett tried his luck from range, his 25-yard effort going over the crossbar. Midway through the half, Dundalk had their first chance when Ross Gaynor neatly knocked the ball down to Byrne, 20-yards from goal, but his low strike was into the arms of Duffin.
The lead goal came on 25 minutes. Colin Hawkins cleared the initial shot from Ciarán Donaghy, but the ball fell only as far as McMullan who fired into Cherrie’s bottom left-hand corner from 15-yards. Dundalk tried to reply immediately, with Quigley making a fine forward run, but once again Duffin proved equal to a low drive. Duffin again prevented Dundalk on the half hour, this time tipping over Quigley’s curling 25-yard free-kick. At the beginning of the second half, Gaynor won a corner down the left, with Kearns’ delivery flapped at by Duffin, the referee deeming that a foul was committed on the ‘keeper. Dundalk were back on level terms within moments when, on 48 minutes, Quigley picked up possession inside his own half and ran past three players before unleashing an incredible dipping shot from 25-yards that found the net off the underside of the crossbar. Cliftonville responded brightly, with McMullan having two low efforts on goal from distance, Cherrie gathering both.
On 66 minutes, Cherrie was called into action when Garrett’s cross-cum-shot almost found the top corner but the Scot clawed it out. At the other end, Gaynor saw his cross parried away by Duffin, before Cliftonville were on the attack again, Nathan Murphy doing well to clear behind after a fine run from Garrett. The resulting corner, from McMullan, was met by the head of Rory Donnelly whose effort went wide of the target. Donnelly was almost through on goal on 70 minutes but Murphy again did well to clear the danger. Three minutes later, Cliftonville gifted Dundalk a goal. Kearns intercepted a pass on the halfway line and ran towards goal, but his weak shot looked easy for Duffin, who inexplicably let the ball go through his hands. The home side tried to reply, but the Lilywhites made it 3-1 on 82 minutes when Kearns fed Quigley, who in turn played a neat 1-2 with Byrne, before picking his spot, a delightful curling effort to the top corner from 20-yards. Dundalk held firm in the final minutes to bring a two-goal advantage into the second leg at Oriel Park on Monday 18 April.
CLIFTONVILLE FC (4-4-2): Jack Duffin; Liam Fleming, Peter Hutton, Ciarán Donaghy (Dermot McVeigh 64), Tony Kane; Stephen Garrett, Ryan Catney, George McMullan, Aaron Smyth (Mark Clarke 90+1); Rory Donnelly, Chris Scannell © (Mark Holland 80).
Goal: G McMullan (25).
Booked: C Donaghy (38), A Smyth (44).
Unused Subs: Andrew Wallace (GK), Jason Bannon, Conal Burns, Kevin O’Neill.
DUNDALK FC (4-2-3-1): Peter Cherrie; Simon Madden ©, Colin Hawkins, Shane Guthrie, Nathan Murphy; Stephen McDonnell, Keith Ward; Daniel Kearns, Mark Quigley, Ross Gaynor; Jason Byrne (Johnny Breen 82).
Goals: M Quigley (48, 82), D Kearns (73).
Booked: R Gaynor (83).
Unused Subs: Paul Murphy (GK), Michael Hector, Mark Griffin.
Referee: Damien Hancock (Dublin).
Attendance: 750 (Approx.).