Jason Byrne was denied a late penalty and then stretchered off as Dundalk had to settle for a share of the spoils in a drab scoreless draw against Bray Wanderers at Oriel Park on Friday night. In a poor first half, there were few chances, Conor Murphy seeing his shot from outside the box held by Peter Cherrie before Byrne blasted over a Simon Madden cross from ten-yards. Byrne was again involved on the hour when his overhead kick went over before Jake Kelly forced Cherrie to push around the post. With six minutes remaining, Michael Hector hit the post following a clever piece of play by Mark Quigley, before Byrne was fouled, but the referee waved away the loud protests.
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Dundalk manager Ian Foster selected the same team as lined out in the win over Drogheda United seven days earlier, with the XI showing six changes to that that lost to Monaghan United in the League Cup on Easter Monday afternoon. Dundalk, however, were hit before the start when Daniel Kearns, who was named on the teamsheet, withdrew through sickness and was replaced by Johnny Breen, who was starting his first league game of the season. Shortly after Breen drove over from a Byrne knockdown from the left edge of the box, Matt Gregg and Dane Massey got in each other’s way, but the ball luckily fell to another visiting player. From the break, Bray had a chance as Murphy found space for a shot but Cherrie got down well to save.
John Mulroy then had a shot deflected wide by Colin Hawkins, before the former Shelbourne defender’s header back to Cherrie almost beat the Scot but he recovered well to push it away, with Hector tidying up any danger with Murphy lurking. On the half-hour mark, Mulroy fired wide from 25-yards, though Dundalk’s No1 had the effort well covered. Dundalk’s best chance of the opening half fell on 32 minutes when Madden’s delivery from the right wing found Byrne in space ten-yards from goal, but he blasted a first-time effort well over. That was the last chance of an overall quiet first half of football as the sides went in scoreless. On 53 minutes, Stephen McDonnell’s cushioned header almost ran into the path of Keith Ward but Matt Gregg raced from his goal to gather.
Shortly after, at the other end, Gary Dempsey laid the ball off to Mulroy but he shot over from outside the box, before a mistake by Hector saw the ball run to Murphy but again the effort was over the target. Jake Kelly then tried his luck from range but Cherrie got down to save. Dundalk threatened once more on 61 minutes when Ross Gaynor’s cross from the left was met by an overhead kick from Byrne which was no threat to Gregg’s goal. On 66 minutes, Mark Quigley’s low free-kick from 30-yards was narrowly wide of the ‘keeper’s right-hand post. Moments later, Byrne’s cross from the right fell for Gaynor but he was penalised for handball. On 70 minutes, Kelly again shot from distance, forcing Cherrie to push around the post. Six minutes from time, Ward’s free-kick caused problems with the ball falling to Quigley whose clever effort was met by Hector but the post denied Dundalk. Byrne was then taken down but no penalty was given, with the experienced striker having to be stretchered off, though he could return for Monday’s visit of Shamrock Rovers.
DUNDALK FC: Peter Cherrie, Simon Madden ©, Colin Hawkins, Michael Hector, Nathan Murphy, Stephen McDonnell, Keith Ward, Mark Quigley, Ross Gaynor, Jason Byrne (Philip Duffy 88), Johnny Breen (Mark Griffin 61).
Booked: M Quigley (78).
Unused Subs: Paul Murphy (GK), Chris Kerr, Stephen Hutchinson.
BRAY WANDERERS AFC: Matt Gregg, David Webster, Adam Mitchell, Derek Prendergast, Dane Massey, John Mulroy (Joe Kendrick 90), Gary Dempsey ©, Danny O’Connor (Graham Kelly 83), Chris Shields, Conor Murphy (Shane O’Neill 81), Jake Kelly.
Unused Subs: Brian Kane (GK), Daire Doyle, Seán Houston, Dean Zambra.
Referee: Richie Winter (Dublin).