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Dennehy to rescue for Hoops

THERE'S a reason Shamrock Rovers have only been beaten by one team this season, and it's their resolute spirit that refuses to give up on a lost cause.

Just as they were down and out in Dalymount earlier in the year only for Ronan Finn to salvage a draw, the Hoops battled back to grab a point with an injury-time equaliser that had looked unlikely for most of this clash.

It was cruel on Dundalk, who defied the form book by playing a brilliant brand of football and went 2-0 up thanks to 20-year-old striker Mark Griffin's double. But Rovers would not be bowed and their squad came into force as substitute Chris Turner gave them a lifeline and Billy Dennehy's 92nd-minute header earned them an unlikely point. That's why they're champions.

The hosts looked like their heads had been turned by the external events that had dominated the last week, with Europe and the racism allegations that hover over the club taking attention away from their league form.

The latter issue will be put to bed today when the FAI adjudicate on Eamon Zayed's claims, while the Champions League needs to be put to one side as they focus on the league with Sligo Rovers and St Pat's next up. Nothing focuses the mind like a good comeback.

The Hoops started strongly and could have been in front but for a series of missed chances from Gary O'Neill, who forced Peter Cherrie into two saves and headed the best chance into the ground and over the bar from Gary McCabe's cross.

It wasn't all one way traffic, though, and Quigley should have put his side in front as Ross Gaynor cut out Ken Oman with a brilliant pass, but despite having loads of time to pick his spot, the former Bohemians striker missed the target.

O'Neill missed another chance from McCabe's cross -- although Dennehy was better placed, the striker dived in and put the ball wide.

All of those missed chances would come back to haunt the league leaders, as Keith Ward took advantage of loose play to play a neat one-two with Quigley and threaded the ball through for Griffin, who held his nerve to beat Alan Mannus.

The hosts thought they had equalised before the break, but the linesman's flag shot up as Gary Twigg bundled O'Neill's flick-on from a Dennehy free home and they were frustrated going in at half-time.

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Dundalk continued to carry more threat going forward as Griffin latched on to Quigley's pass, nutmegged Dan Murray but shot straight at Mannus.

And things got worse for the champions after a brilliant piece of play from Daniel Kearns, who picked Dennehy's pocket in his own half, drove into Rovers territory and drew a foul from Stephen O'Donnell.


Gaynor's inswinging cross caught the defence napping and Griffin gleefully took full advantage with a glancing header that gave Mannus no chance.

Karl Sheppard and Chris Turner were introduced as the Hoops pushed for an equaliser and Oman headed a corner wide, before Nathan Murphy made a brave block from McCabe.

They were granted a way back when Cherrie's misguided punch fell at the feet of Turner, who controlled his first-time effort brilliantly and hit the back of the net. Mannus denied Griffin a third on the break, but it was all one-way traffic as Oman went up front and forced Cherrie into a save.

And the pressure finally told two minutes into injury time as Pat Sullivan's cross was flicked on by Sheppard and Dennehy got there ahead of Cherrie, to head it into the back of the net.

SHAMROCK ROVERS -- Mannus; Sullivan, Murray (Sives 54), Oman, Stevens; McCabe, O'Donnell (Turner 64), Finn, Dennehy; Twigg (Sheppard 67), O'Neill.

DUNDALK -- Cherrie; Madden, Bennett, Hawkins, Murphy; Kearns, Bolger, Ward, Gaynor; Griffin, Quigley.

REF -- A Kelly (Cork).

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