Dundalk heap the pressure on Kenny
THEY shared the spoils, but there was no doubting who left Oriel Park the happier last night.
After their recent travails, Shamrock Rovers travelled north looking for the kind of win that would boost their confidence ahead of Tuesday's Champions League qualifier against Lithuanian side FK Ekranas at Tallaght.
Drawing wasn't in the script for Stephen Kenny and his team.
After all, this was a Dundalk side whose manager left on the eve of the game, whose wages had gone unpaid last month and who were led out by a pair of children with a 'Save our Club' banner.
Second from bottom, the Lilywhites were supposed to be there for the taking, but caretaker boss Darius Kierans had other ideas and his young side battled bravely for their point.
Indeed, it might have been more, but they'll take what they get these days at Oriel and the raucous roar that greeted the final whistle showed what the result meant to the cash-strapped club and its stricken support.
For Rovers, it was another tale of woe in a season filled with disappointment. They now lie 10 points behind league leaders Sligo Rovers and looked low on confidence and devoid of ideas as their fans once again turned on manager Kenny at full-time.
Substitute Daryl Kavanagh's 62nd minute goal earned his side a point, but it would have been scant consolation as they headed back down the M1 with their title defence in real trouble.
Dundalk flew into the clash from the off and although Hoops defender Craig Sives headed an early chance over, it was the hosts who struck first as they profited from yet more ropey defending from Rovers.
Stephen Rice's handball gave Nathan Murphy a free kick in a central area. The left back's delivery was half cleared and Liam Burns headed back into the danger-zone where Mark Griffin reacted first, finding Gary Shanahan and the 19-year-old winger beat Oscar Jansson from six-yards.
The joy around Oriel Park was palpable and while Rovers upped the tempo, they were threatening all too briefly even though Gary Twigg almost came to his side's rescue again when Sives flicked a Pat Sullivan throw into his path, but the Scot's hooked effort sailed just wide.
Killian Brennan's free kick struck the foot of a post with Peter Cherrie beaten as the Hoops went in behind and it could have got worse in the minutes after the break had Derek Foran's firm header from Griffin's corner not cleared the bar, before Chris Shields' effort was saved by Jansson after good work from Shanahan on the counter.
Kenny went to his bench and was rewarded within six minutes as Kavanagh levelled just after the hour mark. The Hoops boss was still calling for a penalty after Burns had climbed all over Sives, but Brennan sent the ball back into the box where the striker was lurking to beat Cherrie and lift the mood among the visiting support.
They were nearly celebrating soon after when another well-struck Brennan free headed goalward, but this time Cherrie was equal to the task as he saved well.
But as Rovers pressed desperately, they began to appear vulnerable on the counter attack and Stephen McDonnell missed a fine opportunity to put his side back in front after good work from Robert Waters on the break.
Jansson brilliantly rescued Sullivan's blushes as last year's European hero almost turned Nathan Murphy's low cross into his own net as the Hoops were stretched again.
He saved from Griffin as the home fans began to dream of a famous win, that wasn't to be.
They were happy enough to savour a famous point instead.
DUNDALK -- Cherrie; McLaughlin, Foran, Burns (Waters 66), Murphy; Walsh, Shields, Mountney, McDonnell (Reilly 94), Shanahan; Griffin.
SHAMROCK ROVERS -- Jansson; Sullivan, Sives, Oman, Powell; Rice (O'Donnell 83), Brennan (Turner 83), Finn; McCabe (Kavanagh 56), Twigg, Dennehy.
REF -- T Connolly (Dublin)