Dundalk show right stuff

Dundalk might be in the doldrums off the pitch but it certainly didn’t affect their performance on it last night, as they held reigning champions Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park.

The County Louth outfit are sweating on their future, with the board recently putting the club up for sale as they risk going out of business.

To add to their woes, manager Sean McCaffrey also parted company with the club 24 hours earlier.

With all that hanging over the players, they could have been forgiven for having other things on their mind other than the visit of the Hoops.

However, they put it up to Stephen Kenny’s men and threatened to pull off one of the shocks of the season when taking the lead through Gary Shanahan on 19 minutes.

In the end, Rovers needed a second-half equaliser from substitute Daryl Kavanagh to rescue them from anightmare Friday the 13th.

Despite bossing the play from the off, it took the Tallaght men 40 minutes to register their first shot on target. Kavanagh’s 63rd-minute equaliser did spark a late push for a winner but for all of Rovers’ quality, it failed to overcome Dundalk’s youthful exuberance.

The result is another huge blow for Kenny’s men as it means they failed to overtake third place Drogheda and now lie 10 points behind league leaders Sligo Rovers.

For Dundalk, under the guise of caretaker boss Darius Kierans, it was a morale-boosting performance. Unfortunately for them it is off-the-field results that matter more at present but this sort of gutsy display will do no harm in revivinginterest in a club that has one of the greatest traditions in the League of Ireland.

Despite their financial woes, the Lilywhite players showed how much they were up for the game when midfielder John Mountney clattered into Stephen Rice inside the opening six minutes.

At that stage Rovers were dominating proceedings without really threatening but it still came as something of a surprise when Dundalk took the lead on 19 minutes.

A poor free into the box by Nathan Murphy wasn’t dealt with by the visitors’ defence and when the ball looped up in the air, it was headed back across goal by Marc Griffin, with the inrushing Shanahan beating Oscar Jansson to the ball to toe-poke into the net.

Despite that setback, Rovers struggled to create any notable chances until two minutes before the break, when a left-footed free-kick from Killian Brennan came crashing back off the butt of the upright.

Rovers’ breakthrough came courtesy of a route one approach. Brennan’s high ball into the box was headed clear only as far as Kavanagh who, just seven minutes after his introduction, fired a low drive into the corner.

The visitors pushed for the lead in the minutes after that. Kavanagh was denied an almost identical goal by a super save from Peter Cherrie seconds later before the Scottish keeper pulled off another stunning save to turn Brennan’s free-kick around the post on 70 minutes.

Dundalk, too, had their chances of retaking the lead. Firstly Stephen McDonnell blazed over and then Nathan Murphy’s cross was almost turned into his own net by Pat Sullivan.

DUNDALK: Cherrie; McLaughlin, Foran, Burns (Waters 66), Murphy; Shanahan, Mountney, Shields, McDonnell, Walsh; Griffin.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Jansson; Sullivan, Sives, Oman, Powell; Dennehy, Brennan (Turner 84), Rice (O’Donnell 84), Finn, McCabe (Kavanagh 56); Twigg.

Referee: T Connolly (Dublin).

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