League of Ireland round-up: Champions Dundalk held while Longford claim vital win
Dundalk 0-0 Galway United
Galway United edged closer to Premier Division safety after becoming just the second team this season to hold Dundalk scoreless in a league game at Oriel Park.
If ever there was a night to play against the champions, then last night was probably it. With the title in the bag, Stephen Kenny made a number of changes to his starting XI, giving rare starts to Shane Grimes, Gabriel Sava and Sean Maguire.
Of bigger concern was the absence of Richie Towell, the league’s top scorer told to put the feet up after being struck down by pleurisy during the week. However, the word emanating from the Dundalk camp was that their talisman would be back in action for the FAI Cup final dress rehearsal with Cork City next week.
The visitors gave the champions a guard of honour as they entered the fray. It was a nice gesture but they soon got to work, frustrating the home side for large spells.
Kenny said beforehand that his team would show no let up in their final three league games but it was perhaps only natural to see Dundalk look off the pace.
They went close in the 33rd minute when John Mountney’s rasping 18-yard drive crashed off the inside of Conor Winnn’s left hand post. Ronan Finn then fired off target four minutes later but they were isolated chances with Galway comfortably keeping the champions at bay.
The points were more important to the Tribesmen and they showed some intent as the first half drifted towards the break with Sava having to beat away a powerful Jake Keegan drive.
Kenny turned to his bench in the second half with Daryl Horgan introduced just after the hour but Dundalk struggled to get any sort of rhythm going with a Darren Meenan free-kick the closest they came to breaking the deadlock.
The game exploded into life with ten minutes remaining as both sides had chances to edge in front.
The woodwork came to Galway’s rescue for the second time after Horgan danced his way past a couple of challenges on the 18-yard line before sending a blistering half volley onto the post.
Play switched to the other end and Andy Boyle had to make a vital block to stop Gary Shanahan from sweeping the ball home after Sava had turned a Keegan effort away.
Dundalk: Sava; Mountney (Gannon HT), Barrett, Boyle, Grimes; Shields, O’Donnell; Meenan, Finn (McMillan 77), Maguire (Horgan 61); Kilduff.
Galway United: Winn; Horgan, Walsh, Oji, Ludden; Sinnott, O’Leary; Shanahan, Connolly, Saarelma (Melody 87); Keegan.
Referee: Tomas Connolly.
St Patrick’s Athletic 2 Drogheda United 1
Despite the best efforts of the inspired Micheal Schlingermann, Conan Byrne and Christy Fagan got the goals to leave St Patrick’s a point away from qualification for next season’s Europa League.
Indeed, should Bohemians not win at Sligo Rovers on Saturday night, St Pat’s will have secured fourth place and Europe for a sixth successive season.
Drogheda remain deep in relegation trouble with two games to play.
Hampered by injuries and three suspensions, St Pat’s lined out in perhaps their most unfamiliar fashion of the season with Lee Desmond at right-back and midfielder Killian Brennan partnering Shane McEleney in central defence. Ian Morris and Aaron Greene played in front of James Chambers in the midfield.
With Sean Thornton and Jason Marks back from suspension, and fellow midfielder Robert Bayly passed fit, Drogheda were at full strength.
Playing their first home game in seven weeks, St. Pat’s started brightly, Drogheda defender Robert O’Reilly doing well to beat Byrne to Ian Bermingham’s cross to clear inside the opening two minutes.
Having scored in each of the last two games, Drogheda’s ex-Ireland international Keith Treacy showed his quality as the visitors threatened for the first time minutes later.
A turn of pace powered the winger through midfield before his low drive worked Conor O’Malley.
But it was opposite number Schlingermann who would excel on several occasions in the first half to keep the sides level at the interval.
Acrobatically batting away one-handed Brennan’s free kick from just outside the area first brought Schlingermann into telling action on 24 minutes.
An equally agile stop was needed 11 minutes later. Jamie McGrath met Aaron Greene’s diagonal ball from the left with a diving header.
But the Drogheda keeper again showed his quality to tip the close-range effort over the crossbar.
Bravery was then required from Schlingermann minutes later when he saved at the feet of the inrushing Greene.
But Schlingermann was finally beaten eight minutes after the break when sent the wrong way from the penalty spot as St Pat’s took a deserved lead.
A rash challenge by Bayly hauled down Fagan as he latched onto James Chambers’ through ball. Byrne score emphatically from 12 yards.
Drogheda responded to level within eight minutes. Treacy’s free kick was nodded back across goal by skipper Mick Daly for Alan Byrne to head home.
Back at the other end, Byrne flashed a header wide and McGrath shot straight at Schlingermann before St Pat’s restored their lead on 67 minutes.
Morris played Fagan down the inside left channel and he ran on to drill a left foot shot to the far corner.
McGrath might have added to that seven minutes later but for another sublime stop from Schlingermann.
Substitute Robert McKenna came close to snatching an equaliser for Drogheda late on,but his shot arrowed wide of the far post.
St Patrick’s Athletic: O’Malley; Desmond, McEleney, Brennan, Bermingham; Chambers; Greene (Verdon, 88), Morris; Byrne, Fagan, McGrath.
Drogheda United: Schlingermann; Daly, Byrne. O’Reilly, Gorman; Bayly (Mulvenna, 88); Treacy, Thornton, Hughes (Brennan, 78), Marks; Duffy (McKenna, 63).
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin).
Cork City 2 Longford Town 3
Longford Town secured a priceless three points against Cork City in Turners Cross last night in front of 2,011 supporters. An 84th minute goal from Kevin O’Connor ensured Longford would get their first three points in the league since August 29th when they defeated Bray Wanderers
The home side nearly had a perfect opening to the game after four minutes when Steven Beattie made a run down the end line before his deflected cross found Billy Dennehy at the back post but the winger could only hit the post from close range.
Longford’s first shot of note arrived on 21 minutes as Dean Kelly found Aymen Ben Mohamed whose accurate cross found O’Sullivan but Kevin O’Connor blocked the shot.
City enjoyed the majority of the attacking chances in with O’Sullivan heading Beattie’s cross over and then Beattie was unlucky with his touch carrying the ball wide after Mark McNulty’s clearance.
The rebel army were rewarded for their dominance when they found a breakthrough on 34 minutes as Liam Miller’s ball over the top found Karl Sheppard and he benefitted from Paul Skinner’s slip finishing to the net.
Longford benefited from a stroke of good fortune on 40 minutes when Darren Dennehy wayward pass found Dean Kelly and he passed to David O’Sullivan to smash high into the roof of the net.
Three minutes later Stephen Rice played the part of super sub when he got on the end of an O’Sullivan cross to give Longford the lead heading into the interval.
Beattie got the equaliser on 63 minutes finishing a rebound for the home side after Danny Morrissey header from Dennehy’s free was parried by Skinner.
Kevin O’Connor got the winner when David O’Sullivan’s pass found the midfielder who slotted home to secure the three points in the relegation battle.
Cork City: McNulty; McSweeney, Murray, D Dennehy, O’Connor; Dunleavy, Miller (Holohan 46); Sheppard, Beattie, B Dennehy (O’Flynn 76); O’Sullivan (Morrissey 46)
Longford Town: Skinner; Powell, Gorman, Rossiter, Sullivan; Gannon, O’Connor, Kelly, Ben Mohamed (Simon 68); Shaw, O’Sullivan
Referee: B. Connolly (Dublin)