Sligo Rovers under-19s slipped to their second defeat to start the new season away to Dundalk.Ryan McManus was on target in spectacular style but it wasn't enough against a more clinical Dundalk team that ran out 4-1 winners at Oriel Park.
Two changes were made from the team that lost to Bohemians with Mark Hannon and Oisin Connolly in for Paul Doyle and Shay Doherty.
Rovers created a flood of openings in the early exchanges but failed to make any of the opportunities count. New centre forward Cathal Carney proved particularly problematic for the Dundalk defence with his runs creating chances for himself and others in the openings moments of the match.
The first attempt on goal came from Darren Kilcawley with a right foot shot by the left winger going low and into the arms of keeper Darren McGarry. Just after that on 10 minutes Carney did well on the left wing and played the ball into the middle where Hannon helped it on to McManus but he couldn't keep his effort under control and fired over.
On 16 minutes Gary Armstrong, who recently made his first-team debut, won the ball in the middle of the park and strode forward. He put the ball through for Carney on the left side of the Dundalk box, he opened his body up to hit with his right but failed to get enough weight behind his shot and the keeper collected comfortably.
Just a few minutes later Kilcawley hooked the ball forward over his head first-time for the chasing Carney. He got into the box, squared up centre-back Anto Reilly before sliding past him however when he struck for goal it flew over the bar giving Rovers only a corner.
After the opening 20 minutes Dundalk began to settle, keeping control of possession better and gaining the upper hand. Their first good chance of the game came when O'Hanlon got to the byline on the right to deliver a cross to the opposite winger Doherty who could only head wide. There was another good moment for the visitors later in the half when Liam Flatley ran in off the right wing past a man and got the ball to the feet of Carney. First time Carney fed Armstrong with a ball round the corner but the opportunity wasn't taken with Armstrong shooting wide.
In first half stoppage time the key moment came when Dundalk were awarded a free-kick just outside the area. Up stepped Alex Barry to shoot and the number 10 lifted the ball nicely over the wall and underneath the crossbar. It was the final act of the first half with the whistle coming shortly after and the home side had the advantge at the break.
The Lilywhites began the second half on the front foot and their captain Georgie Poynton tried a shot at goal with rose too high. On 54 minutes right-back Kyle Harrigan made a run into the box and was gifted a golden opportunity to level by a mix-up between the keeper and his defence but his trickled shot rolled across goal and past the post.
Four minutes after Dundalk doubled their lead with a well taken goal. Doherty played the ball in form the left to find Michael O'Connor in the box. He had Taheny at his back but the striker swiveled left and hit a nice shot in at the near post.
Rovers responded well to get back into the game and two minutes later got their first goal of the season in unusual fashion. The ball broke in mid-field where Ryan McManus came onto the ball and hammered the it towards goal from five yards inside the Rovers half. The ball flew into the net over the head of the keeper McGarry and the score was now 2-1.
Undeterred, Dundalk quickly restored daylight between the sides. A well measured cross from the right into the six yard box was met by the head of O'Connor who couldn't miss from such close range.
A couple more chances came the way of the home team with the impressive front duo of Barry and O'Connor failing to add to their tallies when presented with opportunities to shoot. Rovers didn't fade away and continued pushing forward in search of a way back. Ross Taheny hit a free-kick well from distance that the keeper saved while sub Keelan Kennoy had an attempt on the half-volley go wide. The best opportunity came when Dundalk didn't get the ball out of their box and it came to Mark McCallion, he couldn't find space for a shot but was able to give the ball to Armstrong though he could only lift the ball over the bar.
In added time a fourth goal put the seal on the win for Dundalk. Substitute Calvin Murphy made a strong run on the left, Oisin Connolly tried to keep up but he made his way into the box and then shot along the ground with the ball nestling in the far corner of the net. There was time for one final Rovers opportunity made by Flatley to find Armstrong just inside the area but it wasn't to be his day in front of goal and the effort ended wide.
Ciaran Kelly's side will look to get their first points of the campaign against Longford Town in a home game next weekend.
Team: Chambers, Harrigan (O'Donaghue 58), McCallion, Connolly, Taheny, Hannon (Anderson 87), McManus (Kennoy 70), Flatley, Kilcawley (Doyle 58), Armstrong, Carney (Walsh 67).
Subs not used: Burke, Doherty.