Dundalk win Unite the Union Champions Cup
Dundalk have won the inaugural Unite the Union Champions Cup thanks to a thumping 6-0 win over Linfield at Oriel Park (7-1 on aggregate).
The champions of Ireland made it four trophies for the season with a convincing display against their Northern Irish counterparts, rounding off the season in style in front of their home crowd.
First half strikes from Georgie Kelly, captain Brian Gartland and Jamie McGrath almost settled the tie before the interval, before Robbie Benson and Patrick Hoban added a gloss to the scoreline after the break, either side of Kelly’s second.
As he has all season, newly-crowned PFAI Manager of the Year Vinny Perth utilised the strength of his squad, making eight changes to the Dundalk side that drew 1-1 in Windsor Park on Friday night, and the Lilywhites started the game with purpose.
A couple of early counter-attacks saw the Lilywhites in confident mood and, with six minutes on the clock, Michael Duffy broke down the left and crossed to Daniel Kelly, whose shot was blocked but Georgie Kelly was on hand to bury it from close range.
Jamie McGrath almost made it two just a couple of minutes later, but his shot from the edge of the box fizzed over the bar, before Chris Casement hit a free-kick for Linfield straight at McCarey.
On the quarter hour mark, Brian Gartland threaded a slide-rule pass between centre back and full back for Daniel Kelly. His cross was blocked behind but the resulting corner form Michael Duffy found Gartland in acres of space six yards out and he made no mistake with a stooping header.
The game was over as a contest on 34 minutes, when Jamie McGrath punished a mistake by Linfield keeper Rohan Ferguson, whose mishit clearance was picked up by Michael Duffy. The Derryman teed up McGrath outside the box and he made no mistake for his third goal of the season.
After a swashbuckling first half of attacking football, the second half took a while to get going, but Aaron McCarey’s diving stop – full length to his right – to deny Linfield skipper Jamie Mulgrew sparked the Lilywhites into life.
Jamie McGrath latched onto another poor clearance from Rohan Ferguson to slide in Daniel Kelly, but the winger’s effort was straight at the keeper, who makes amends with the save.
Sean Gannon sliced wide for Dundalk just before the hour mark, before Kirk Millar skimmed the side-netting with a shot for Linfield.
It was four to Dundalk on 64 minutes, when Robbie Benson burst onto a Georgie Kelly knock-down to race through and dink a delightful finish over Ferguson.
Benson left the field to a standing ovation moments later as both sides started to ring the changes.
Daniel Kelly and Bastien Hery volleyed wide for either side before Georgie Kelly made it five for Dundalk, heading home from Michael Duffy’s cross.
Patrick Hoban made it six of the best with just five minutes to go, finding himself in acres of space to head home Duffy’s corner for his 20th goal of the season.
DUNDALK: Aaron McCarey; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland (capt), Daniel Cleary, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Robbie Benson (John Mountney, 67); Daniel Kelly, Jamie McGrath (Lido Lotefa, 73), Michael Duffy; Georgie Kelly (Patrick Hoban, 79)
Substitutes not used: Gary Rogers (GK), Sean Hoare, Andy Boyle, Dean Jarvis
Booked: Daniel Cleary, Georgie Kelly
Sent off: None
LINFIELD: Ronan Ferguson; Christopher Casement, Joshua Robertson (Charlie Allen,70), Jimmy Callacher, Matthew Clarke; JamieMulgrew (capt), Stephen Fallon; Kirk Millar (Matthew Shevlin, 77), Bastien Hery, Niall Quinn; Andrew Waterworth (Daniel Reynolds, 76)
Substitutes not used: Gareth Deane (GK), Ross Larkin, Andrew Mitchell, Adam Carroll
Sent off: None
Referee: Stephanie Frappart