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It has been a busy week in the League of Ireland.
There was a full round of fixtures on Friday night, as well as four EA Sports Cup quarter-finals on Monday evening.
Derby delight for Derry
Derry City thumped Finn Harps 4-0 in the Northern derby.
Ciaron Harkin scored a hat-trick after Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe had opened the scoring at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium.
Derry started well but did not take the lead until the 32nd minute.
The hosts were awarded a penalty when Harps’ Daniel O’Reilly fouled David Parkhouse inside the area.
Ogedi-Uzokwe’s initial effort was saved by Peter Cherrie, but he was in the right place to slot home the rebound from close range.
He almost doubled his tally minutes later, only to see his acrobatic overhead kick be ruled out due to a foul in the box.
A minute before half time, Harkin made it two with a stunning free kick from 25 yards.
The striker grabbed his second in the 67th minute, taking a few touches before finding the bottom corner with a pinpoint low strike.
The striker completed the rout – and his hat-trick – in the last minute by finishing off Aidy Delap’s cross.
Derry’s emphatic win moves them to within a point of third-placed Bohs, but the heavy defeat has consigned Ollie Horgan’s visitors back to the bottom of the division.
The Donegal club have amassed just 10 points from 19 league matches this season, and have a goal difference of -25.
To compound Harps’ misery, they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Derry in the EA Sports Cup on Monday night.
Nathan Boyle had given Harps the lead in the 55th minute, but a David Parkhouse brace rescued victory for Derry after extra time, with Mark Coyle receiving his marching orders in the 115th minute.
Derry will now face Waterford at home in the semi-final.
Dundalk and Rovers set the pace
It has become a two-horse race for the title.
Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers won their respective league games to move 12 points clear of the chasing pack.
The Lilywhites left it late against St. Patrick’s Athletic at Oriel Park on Friday night.
Harry Kenny’s visitors frustrated the champions for large portions of the game, but were undone in stoppage time by a bizarre goal.
An attempted clearance in the St. Pat’s box deflected off Dundalk defender Sean Hoare, flying into the net past a despairing Brendan Clarke.
It was a flat performance and an ugly win, but a crucial one for Dundalk in the title race.
For the second time in less than a week, Vinny Perth’s men stole victory in stoppage time; a sign of true champions.
Things were more comfortable for the Lilywhites in Monday’s 3-1 win over UCD in the EA Sports Cup.
Brian Gartland and John Moutney gave the home side a 2-0 lead against the students after just 18 minutes, before Yoyo Mahdy halved the deficit with 11 minutes remaining.
However, Georgie Kelly sealed Dundalk’s place in the last four with a stoppage time strike.
Rovers played just once, having been eliminated from the cup earlier in the competition.
The Hoops beat Cork City 2-0 in Tallaght on Friday to keep the pressure on Dundalk.
Former Republic of Ireland defender Joey O’Brien opened the scoring with a tidy finish in the 51st minute, bending his first goal of the season into the far corner.
Roberto Lopes doubled Rovers’ lead 10 minutes later, and Stephen Bradley’s side ran out as comfortable winners.
They remain in second place on 43 points, behind Dundalk only on goal difference.
This has the makings of a fantastic title race.
A mixed week for Bohs
Let’t start with the good news.
Bohs beat Cork City 2-0 in the EA Sports Cup on Monday in Phibsboro.
A goal from Ross Tierney (33) and a Danny Mandroiu penalty (86) sealed the Dublin club’s progress to the semi-final, condemning the Leesiders to their second 2-0 defeat in four days.
Bohs face a trip to Louth to face Dundalk in the final four.
Now, the bad news.
Keith Long’s men’s wavering title race took another blow on Friday night, losing 2-1 to Sligo Rovers at Dalymount Park.
The first half was disrupted by two injuries.
Dinny Corcoran was forced off with a nasty ankle injury, and Sligo centre half Dante Leverock had to be stretchered off after suffering a head injury.
It was a disjointed and scrappy opening 45 minutes as a result.
The Bit O’Red took the lead three minutes into the second half.
David Cawley’s lofted through pass picked out Romeo Parkes, who beat Aaron Barry before finishing past James Talbot.
Conor Levingston drew Bohs level four minutes later, driving forward and finding the bottom corner with an excellent strike.
Bohs lost skipper Derek Pender to a red card in the 70th minute when the midfielder caught Lewis Banks with a reckless high challenge, but Long’s side continued to press forward in search of a winner.
However, it was Sligo who nicked a late winner in the dying seconds following a swift counter-attack.
The visitors broke quickly after a mistake by Levingston, with Parkes applying the finish to Ronan Coughlan’s cross to break Bohs hearts.
The Dubliners are now just one point clear of Derry City, and trail the top two by 12 points.
Two wins for Waterford
Waterford enjoyed an excellent week.
Alan Reynolds’ side beat UCD 1-0 in the league on Friday before winning by the same scoreline against Bray Wanderers in the EA Sports Cup.
Zach Elbouzedi scored the only goal of the game against UCD at the Regional Sports Centre on Friday evening.
Both teams had chances early in the game, but it was Waterford who took the lead in the 36th minute.
Republic of Ireland U21 international Elbouzedi smashed a low left-footed effort past Conor Kearns after Cory Galvin’s strike was blocked in the area.
JJ Lunney and Elbouzedi both had chances to double the hosts’ advantage either side of half time, while Neil Farrugia forced Matthew Connor into a save at the other end.
Waterford held on to secure an important win, one which moves them one point clear of eighth-placed Cork City.
The Munster club are seven points of Derry in fourth, but have a game in hand over the Candystripes.
Scott Twine then scored the winner in Bray three days later to complete a good week for Reynolds’ men.
He curled a beautiful free kick into the top corner on the quarter hour mark after a foul on Izzy Akinade.
The only positive for UCD is that they remain above Finn Harps on goal difference, but the students are still without a win on the road this season.