By Robert O’Reilly
Drogheda United kicked off their 2018 First Division season in style as they put six goals past Athlone Town at United Park.
A brace from Mark Doyle, an own goal from Martin Walshe and strikes from Jake Hyland, Colm Deasy and Ciaran Kelly sealed an emphatic victory.
Drogs boss Tim Clancy made two changes from the side that was named to face Finn Harps as Deasy and Doyle replaced Lloyd Buckley and Gareth McCaffrey.
There was only nine minutes on the clock when the Drogs hit the front. Hyland exchanged passes with Chris Lyons on the edge of the box before seeing his left-foot strike deflect off the defender and past Nathan Murphy in goal.
Drogheda had the bit between their teeth and they went in search of the second goal. A corner-kick was returned into the box with Murphy only clearing the ball as far as Mark Doyle but the Drogheda forward failed to hit the target.
Athlone rarely threatened in truth and the closest they came was midway through the first-half as Tzee Mustafa’s free-kick deflected off the wall and bounced narrowly wide.
United did eventually double their lead on the stroke of half-time, a short corner was played to Lee Duffy who committed the defender before pulling the ball back for Martin Walshe to bundle the ball over his own goal line.
Drogheda started the second-half off in determined fashion and they made in 3-0 three minutes after the break. Sean Brennan’s corner-kick from the right was flicked on by Kelly and Doyle was the first to react as he nodded the ball beyond Murphy from close range.
The game was ended as a contest on 55 minutes when Kevin Farragher’s long ball caught out the Athlone defence as Deasy ran through and expertly lofted the ball over the keeper and into the far corner.
It was two goals in three minutes as Farragher once again played a long ball over the top and Doyle raced through on goal and his strike was too powerful for Murphy to stop.
The Boynesiders missed countless chances to add a sixth with Lyons, Duffy and substitute Gareth McCaffrey all going close before Kelly headed home Richie Purdy’s corner in stoppage time.
A dream start for Drogs boss Tim Clancy but he’ll be aware that Friday’s trip to Wexford will provide a sterner test for his side.
Drogheda United: Paul Skinner; Colm Deasy, Kevin Farragher, Ciaran Kelly, Conor Kane; Jake Hyland, Sean Brennan, Luke Gallagher Lee Duffy, Chris Lyons, Mark Doyle
Subs: Luca Gratzer, Lloyd Buckley, Kealen Dillon, Luke Rossiter, Richie Purdy, Stephen Meaney, Gareth McCaffrey
Athlone town: Nathan Murphy; Aaron Brilly, Dan O’Donavon, Cormac Raftery, Ian Flecther; Martin Walshe, Jake O’Connor, Shane Stokes (Tzee Mustapha 11’), Josh Hogan; Rory McCullough, Craig Short
Subs: Ryan Gaffey, Aaron Williams, Stephen Grogan, Felix Bape Perez, Sean O’Donnell, Darren Kavanagh
Droghedaunited.ie Man of the Match: Jake Hyland