Dundalk’s 2023 League of Ireland season is officially up and running after a blistering performance by Stephen O’Donnell’s men saw them hit five without reply against St Patrick’s at Oriel Park on Friday night.

Two goals inside the opening 15 minutes from captain Patrick Hoban and centre-back Louie Annesley put the Lilywhites in the driving seat and they kept their foot on the accelerator after the break with two of the other new arrivals, Rayhaan Tulloch and Connor Malley, grabbing their first goal for the club either side of a cool Daniel Kelly finish.

The result is our biggest – and undoubtedly sweetest – under O’Donnell thus far and represents the first time Dundalk have hit five in a league game since a 5-0 rout over UCD back in 2019.

O’Donnell made four changes to the side that was beaten 2-1 by Bohemians seven nights earlier with Darragh Leahy restored to the back four while ahead of him, Tulloch and Johannes Yli-Kokko came in for their full debut while Kelly made his first start since injuring a hamstring against Derry City last summer.

Patrick Hoban scores Dundalk’s first goal during the League of Ireland match with St Patrick’s Athletic at Oriel Park. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Similar to the opening two games against UCD and Bohs, Dundalk started brightly but they rammed home the advantage here, leaving Pat’s on the ropes with just a quarter of an hour played.

Malley provided the assist for the first when his curling free-kick from the right was met by the unmarked Hoban who steered a trademark header past David Odumosu at the Carrick Road end. It was his 170th career goal – and his 136th for Dundalk, which leaves him just six short of Joey Donnelly’s all-time club record.

Things got even better in the 15th minute. Pat’s failed to clear a Dundalk free-kick and when Hayden Muller helped the ball back into the danger zone, Annesley was on hand to prod home from close range. It was the Gibraltar international’s first senior goal.

Kelly saw a goalbound effort deflected just past the upright by Joe Redmond as Dundalk looked to kill the game off but Pat’s steadied the ship a little and they had chances to pull one back with Mark Doyle diverting a header wide from a good position before Leahy was fortunate to see his attempted interception on an Eoin Doyle cross trickle past Nathan Shepperd’s post.

Daniel Kelly celebrates after scoring Dundalk’s fourth goal against St Patrick’s Athletic at Oriel Park. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Tulloch thrilled the Oriel Park faithful with a menacing display and he almost brought the house down in the 36th minute when he raced onto Malley’s pass, danced around a couple of Pat’s defenders, and poked the ball towards goal only for Odumosu to deny the new Dundalk number 77.

Tim Clancy’s men went close again five minutes before the break when Jake Mulraney’s free-kick from out on the right deceived Shepperd and came back off the post with Annesley and Yli-Kokko doing well to block subsequent attempts by Jamie Lennon and Joe Redmond in the aftermath.

HT: Dundalk FC 2-0 St Patrick’s Athletic

The game was put beyond their reach just six minutes after the restart when Tulloch grabbed his first senior goal. Hayden Muller was again involved with his drive proving too hot for Odumosu to handle, and the on-loan winger from West Bromwich Albion was on hand to gobble up the rebound.

The majority of the 3,487 in attendance were celebrating again just three minutes later. Greg Sloggett, a contender for the Man of the Match award, slipped a sumptuous pass through the Pat’s backline and Kelly slipped inside Noah Lewis before tucking the ball home and taking flight with his celebration!

Rayhaan Tulloch leaves Noah Lewis, Sam Curtis and Joe Redmond trailing during the League of Ireland match between Dundalk and St Patrick’s Athletic at Oriel Park. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

With Monday night’s game against Shelbourne on the horizon, O’Donnell utilised his squad and substitute Keith Ward went within a centimetre of making it 5-0 but his effort flashed just wide of the post before Malley tested Odumosu with a rasping drive from 20 yards.

Dundalk were not going to be denied, however, and Malley became the third player to grab his first goal for the club when he placed the ball wide of Odumosu with his left foot after good hustling by substitutes John Martin and Cameron Elliott to round off a brilliant night on the Carrick Road.

FT: Dundalk FC 5-0 St Patrick’s Athletic

DUNDALK FC: Nathan Shepperd; Hayden Muller, Andy Boyle, Louie Annesley, Darragh Leahy (Wasiri Williams 88); Greg Sloggett, Johannes Yli-Kokko (John Martin 67), Connor Malley; Daniel Kelly (Keith Ward 67), Patrick Hoban (Ryan O’Kane 77), Rayhaan Tulloch (Cameron Elliott 77). Subs not used: Archie Davies, Anthony Moyo, Peter Cherrie (GK), Mark Byrne (GK).

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: David Odumosu; Sam Curtis (Tom Grivosti 54), Joe Redmond, Noah Lewis, Anto Breslin; Chris Forrester, Jamie Lennon (Thomas Lonergan HT), Vladislav Kreida (Conor Carty 69); Jake Mulraney (Thijs Timmermans 69), Eoin Doyle (Serge Atakayi 61), Mark Doyle. Subs not used: Dean Lynn’s (GK), Jay McClelland, Ben McCormack, John Alan McGrath.

REFEREE: Paul McLaughlin.