So often in recent years games between Dundalk and Cork City were potential title deciders.
Tonight’s meeting at Oriel Park was further evidence of just how far apart the two clubs have grown, however, as home fans vented their frustration with their own team at failing to put Neale Fenn’s side to the sword.
Expectations of the visitors getting anything from the game on the back of their 6-0 drubbing away to Shamrock Rovers on Friday night were summed up by the pre-match odds of 25/1 on offer.
Despite Michael Duffy volleying Dundalk in front on 16 minutes, however, Vinny Perth’s side looked devoid of ideas of how to break down a Rebel defence which was set up determined to avoid another pasting on their travels.
That led to frustration among the home support, who booed Daniel Cleary early in the second half resulting in the defender remonstrating with a number of fans.
The frustration was lifted shortly after when Patrick Hoban doubled his side’s lead from the spot before Jordan Flores rifled home a screamer to ensure a third successive victory at the start of the season for Vinny Perth’s side and a third successive defeat for their former fiercest of rivals.
The home side took the game to their opponents from the off with Daniel Kelly racing onto Hoban’s lay-off to round Liam Bossin but his touch was too heavy and the ball ran out of play.
While they would spend much of the early stages of the first half on the back foot, it was Cork who fashioned the first shot on seven minutes when Gearoid Morrissey – the sole survivor in the starting 11 from his side’s title double success in 2017 – curled a left foot shot to the left and wide.
Hoban then had a couple of tame headers straight at Bossin either side of a low strike from Duffy that the goalkeeper had to save at the second attempt before the striker could pounce.
Then came the breakthrough on 16 minutes. A shot from Kelly struck Hoban on its way to goal and was going wide only for Ronan Hurley to prevent the ball from going out for what he presumed to be a corner. The resulting throw from Sean Gannon was then returned to him by Kelly with his cross met brilliantly by Duffy on the back post who volleyed to the bottom right hand corner.
The Louth men lost their way somewhat after that, however, with the ease of the game bringing about an air of complacency that resulted in a number of unforced errors.
They did pass up a golden chance to double their advantage two minutes before the break when Cleary was picked out unmarked six yards out by Gannon’s cross only to somehow head over.
His centre half partner Sean Hoare was then denied by a fine stop from Bossin within six minutes of the restart when the keeper clawed away his header from Duffy’s cross.
The frustrations of the home support were vocalised when Cleary kicked the ball back to Rogers from half way on 55 minutes but the frustration was lifted within eight minutes when Dundalk were awarded a penalty after Kelly was fouled by Hurley after being played in behind by Hoban.
Hoban stepped up to take the spot kick himself and made no mistake with a finish to the top left hand corner to make it 2-0 with what was his 50th league goal at Oriel Park.
The pair then tried to link up again on 66 minutes but when Hoban’s attempted pass broke down, Flores lit up Oriel Park with a stunning strike to the top left hand corner.
Kelly had a couple of chances to add to the lead after that but spurned them. It’s three wins from three for Dundalk, however – four points better off than in each of the last two title winning seasons – ahead of the mouth watering trip to face Shamrock Rovers on Friday in Tallaght.
Dundalk: Rogers; Gannon, Cleary, Hoare, Leahy; Shields, Flores (Sloggett 68); D Kelly, Smith (Patching 71), Duffy (Lotefa 87); Hoban.
Cork City: Bossin; Stabana, Olowu, Redmond, Hurley; Ochieng, Morrissey (Holland 84), Byrne; O’Connor (Galvin 71), McGlade, O’Brien-Whitmarsh (Murphy 87).
Referee: P McLaughlin (Monaghan).