Substitute Ben McLaughlin’s 75th-minute shot forced a fabulous save as an under-strength Dundalk Youths were held to a 1-1 draw by Saint Patrick’s Athletic at Bunting Road, Dublin on Sunday afternoon, in the DDSL U18 Super League. The young Lilywhites have set a strong pace at the top of the division, and they were quickly into their stride here as Daniel Hand (pictured) broke the deadlock on five minutes. However, that was cancelled out on the quarter-hour mark. And, after both sides enjoyed possession and chances, McLaughlin went closest to winning it but his effort was superbly stopped.
Alan Browne’s side travelled to the capital missing several players through injury, with Kurt Murphy, Seanie Crosbie, Brian Bird, Conor McDonald and Scott Craven all absent. After exiting the FAI Cup at the hands of the Saints back in October, Dundalk defeated them in the league three weeks later with a double from U18 debutant Bob McKenna. This time around, the Louth side’s attack was led by Hand, and the Cavan-born striker found the net with his first chance, after the visitors had made a bright start to the match.
A neat ball over the top from Ryan Duffy found Hand and he controlled well, with his touch taking him past a defender before he chipped the ‘keeper. Dundalk continued on top, but St. Pat’s equalised shortly after, when a long throw-in was not cleared, with the hosts finding the top right corner of the net. On 20 minutes, they shot over the bar. Dundalk, causing their own problems by conceding possession, quickly grew back into the game, and fine link-up play involving Roy Kierans, Stephen Kilcoyne and Michael Gray ended with the latter crossing for Cian Doyle who fired over.
On 32 minutes, it was Kevin Loughran and Gray who combined, with the Monaghan-born winger this time delivering, to the feet of Hand, but again the effort went over. Before the break, Kilcoyne’s corner was headed just wide by Rowan Quinn, who scored in the cup clash between these sides. After the break, Dundalk were again sloppy in possession, with some poor passing giving St. Pat’s openings. The Saints, who went into the game in eighth place, were dangerous in the opening quarter, with several efforts from distance that Connolly was grateful to see rise high.
Past the hour mark and Dundalk began to dominate possession, with Kilcoyne pulling the strings in midfield. With all the play continuing in the home half, the young Lilywhites went agonisingly close to winning it when McLaughlin, only on the pitch a matter of minutes, picked up the ball well inside the Saints half and fired a shot that was on its way to the bottom left corner only for the ‘keeper to produce a magnificent save. The final chance fell on 85 minutes when Jack Clancy’s ball over the top found substitute Jude Carroll in the box but he scuffed his shot, which hit the side-netting.
DUNDALK FC: Johnny Connolly, Ryan Duffy, Roy Kierans, Aidan Sheehy, Jack Clancy, Rowan Quinn, Kevin Loughran, Cian Doyle (Jude Carroll 65), Stephen Kilcoyne, Michael Gray, Daniel Hand (Ben McLaughlin 72).
Goal: D Hand (5).