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Drogheda United claim Louth derby spoils to deal Dundalk title blow

Drogheda Utd 1 Dundalk 0

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Gary Deegan of Drogheda United celebrates after his side's victory in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division over Dundalk at Head in the Game Park in Drogheda, Louth. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Gary Deegan of Drogheda United celebrates after his side's victory in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division over Dundalk at Head in the Game Park in Drogheda, Louth. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Gary Deegan of Drogheda United celebrates after his side's victory in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division over Dundalk at Head in the Game Park in Drogheda, Louth. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

On a lively night at Head In The Game Park, Dundalk tasted defeat for just the third time this season.

It just so happens that two of them have come here, at the hands of their local rivals. Drogheda’s jubilant fanbase took great pleasure in reminding their guests of that at the final whistle, with Kevin Doherty’s side earning all three points.

They put their bodies on the line in the second half, and their goalkeeper Colin McCabe didn’t have a meaningful save to make despite Dundalk enjoying periods of pressure.

On that basis, Stephen O’Donnell can have few complaints, although he was irate with the match officials after a reverse which leaves Shamrock Rovers ten points clear at the top of the table and able to concentrate on their European endeavours without domestic stress.

This game ignited inside a minute, with what proved to be the only goal. It’s not often that early mistakes are punished so efficiently, with Andy Boyle’s clumsy attempt at dealing with an Evan Weir cross seized upon by Drogheda forward Dean Williams who swivelled to find the top corner with his first touch, a superb strike.

Dundalk were good in the entertaining spell that followed, with Dave McMillan and Dan Kelly squandering chances to level things up. O’Donnell’s side were clearly looking to find joy with runners from deep positions and Kelly was a threat down the left side.

Drogheda recovered from a sticky patch, though, and with Darragh Markey in fine form as a link man, they had a few moments of their own before the break in a combative encounter that featured a bizarre moment when O’Donnell effectively tackled Drogs midfielder Gary Deegan by instinctively sticking his foot out for a ball that was going over the sideline.

Ref Neil Doyle was understanding of that, but he produced six yellows before the break with tactical fouls punished. Both benches were frustrated.

Within 11 minutes of the restart, O’Donnell was stirred to life for different reasons. Feeling his team needed fresh impetus, he made a treble switch and adjusted from a back four to a defensive three with Kelly and sub Ryan O’Kane as attack-minded wing backs.

It was a clear statement of intent, and yet the busiest keeper in the immediate aftermath was Sheppard, who made a fine reflex save to deny Williams another from close range.

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The Dundalk keeper was taken to hospital after the match to have a shoulder injury assessed.

As the chequered flag approached, Drogheda were happy to defend quite deep and ask questions of their neighbours. Dundalk couldn’t find the answers.

Drogheda: McCabe, Heeney, Quinn, Cowan, Weir; Deegan, Clarke; Foley (Nugent 15), Markey, Rooney (Brennan 62); Williams.

Dundalk: Sheppard, Macari (O’Kane 56), Boyle, Connolly, Leahy; Doyle (Hoban 56), Sloggett (Bone 81); Adams (Ward 56), Benson, Kelly; McMillan (Bradley 77).

Referee: N Doyle.


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