Friday 19 January 2018

Sullivan fires Lilywhites into title reckoning

Dundalk 2, St Patrick's Ath 1

Dundalk's Dane Massey tangles with Conor Kenna of St Pat's in their clash at Oriel Park last night
Dundalk's Dane Massey tangles with Conor Kenna of St Pat's in their clash at Oriel Park last night

John Sullivan's 83rd-minute goal means that Dundalk will go into the mid-season break very much in the title hunt as the Lilywhites came from a goal behind to beat league leaders St Patrick's Athletic at Oriel Park.

Sullivan took control of Richie Towell's disguised free-kick to smash his effort past the unsighted Brendan Clarke to leave the Louth venue rocking. The result leaves Stephen Kenny's side sitting nicely in third place, six points behind the Saints with a game in hand.

For Liam Buckley's men, who had Killian Brennan sent off in the first-half, this was their first league defeat since April 2, when Dundalk picked up the three points at Richmond Park.

Pat's arrived on the back of an unbeaten record at the Louth venue which stretched back almost 15 years.

They were left with a difficult task when Brennan, who was named Airtricity League Player of the Month for May, left referee Anthony Buttimer with no option but to brandish a red card when he lunged in recklessly on Darren Meenan in the 35th minute.

Wet conditions suited both sets of players, who zipped the ball across the artificial surface at pace. Dundalk started well, pressing the visitors high up the pitch but they failed to penetrate with efforts from Pat Hoban and Sullivan causing no danger to Pat's goalkeeper Clarke.

The league leaders took time to settle but, after a good spell around the 20-minute mark, they did create the best chance of the first half when Chris Forrester forced a good save out of Peter Cherrie. The Dundalk goalkeeper then had to be quick off his line to spread himself and deny Christy Fagan soon after.

Pat's were left feeling very aggrieved on the half-hour mark when Shane McFaul was left in a heap by a Stephen McDonnell challenge. And their frustration got the better of Brennan who saw red five minutes later when he left Meenan needing attention following a bad tackle.

The 10 men took the lead on the hour mark when former Dundalk player Greg Bolger's cross was parried by Cherrie into the path of Fagan, who couldn't miss from close range.

Dundalk huffed and puffed but they eventually broke Pat's down in the 71st minute. Dane Massey found Kurtis Byrne in the penalty area and the striker twisted his way past Kenny Browne to lash a drive past Clarke.

That lifted the Oriel Park faithful and they were were on their feet again four minutes later when Browne nudged Keith Ward in the back to concede a penalty. Luckily for Browne, Clarke saved Byrne's powerful spot-kick.

That didn't deter the home side though and they kept pushing for a winner which duly arrived with eight minutes to play when Towell and Sullivan combined with a free-kick off the training ground to give Dundalk what could be a significant three points.

DUNDALK – Cherrie; Sullivan, Rossiter, Boyle, Massey; Dillon (Ward 56), McDonnell (Mulvenna 67), Towell, Meenan; Byrne, Hoban (Faherty 79).

ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC – Clarke; O'Brien, Browne, Kenna, Bermingham; McFaul (Russell 76), Bolger, Brennan; Byrne (Price 84), Fagan (Flood 82), Forrester.

REF – A Buttimer (Cork).

Irish Independent

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