Saturday 18 August 2018

Ireland hopeful Duffy shines in front of O'Neill

Dundalk 2-1 Levadia Tallinn

Michael Duffy celebrates scoring his side's second goal. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Duffy celebrates scoring his side's second goal. Photo: Sportsfile

Gavin McLaughlin

Michael Duffy has expressed a desire to play for the Republic of Ireland and, with Martin O'Neill watching on from the main stand, the Dundalk winger will have done his chances of that no harm at all with a sensational goal at Oriel Park last night as Dundalk advanced to the next round of the Europa League.

O'Neill has publicly name- checked his fellow Derryman in recent months and, like the 3,100 in attendance, he will have been left drooling at the 33rd-minute wonder strike from Duffy which came just two minutes after Patrick Hoban's opener.

That quick-fire double moved Dundalk 3-0 ahead on aggregate but Roman Debelko kept the tie alive with a fine finish before the break.

However, despite bossing large periods of the second half, the Estonians rarely threatened Gary Rogers and Dundalk saw it out to set up a showdown with AEK Larnaca from Cyprus in round two.

Dundalk chairman Mike Treacy celebrates following his side's victory .Photo: Sportsfile
Dundalk chairman Mike Treacy celebrates following his side's victory .Photo: Sportsfile

Progress in European competition is key for Dundalk and it was no surprise to see club chairman Mike Treacy and PEAK6 owner and CEO Matt Hulsizer make the trip from Chicago, the latter visiting for the first time since the takeover earlier this year.

The pair enjoyed a lengthy chat with Stephen Kenny before the game but they would have been concerned by Levadia's impressive start which saw Cameroon winger Marcellin Gando causing Dundalk plenty of problems.

With referee Adrien Jaccottet also over-fussy, Dundalk struggled to get into a rhythm although Hoban saw a header come back off the bar after beating Serge Leptets to a Chris Shields cross.

The Swiss referee's whistle would have cancelled it out in any event.

Roman Debelko of Levadia in action against Sean Hoare of Dundalk. Photo: Sportsfile
Roman Debelko of Levadia in action against Sean Hoare of Dundalk. Photo: Sportsfile

Hoban opted for craft six minutes later, glancing Seán Gannon's ball across the goalkeeper to bank goal number 22 of the season and Duffy's magical strike, two minutes later, left Aleksandar Rogic's side on the ropes.

Jamie McGrath's ball to the back post found the winger beyond the six-yard box but he somehow managed to wrap his left-foot around the ball and fire a stunning missile past Lepmets from a ridiculous angle.

Gando looked to have pulled done back when he rose to plant a fine header past Rogers in the 38th minute but the linesman's flag saw it chalked off. Dundalk failed to heed the warning and Debelko kept the tie alive when he rifled a cracking effort past Rogers three minutes before the break.

The Ukrainian flashed a volley across the face of goal and Nikkita Andreev looped a header over the top as the visitors continued to probe for a way back into it in the second half.

A goal at that stage would have made things extremely nervy for the hosts but Dundalk, who were unusually quiet for long periods after the restart, saw it out and Duffy's goal will no doubt be the talk of the town - and further afield - over the next couple of days.

Irish Independent

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