Drogheda United 1-3 Dundalk
Garry Breen and Ross Gaynor combined to shoot Dundalk back to parity with Saint Patrick’s Athletic at the top of the Premier Division table as the Lilywhites put local rivals Drogheda United to the sword with a superb 3-1 win in the third Louth Derby of the season at United Park on Friday night. Breen had Dundalk two ahead by the quarter-hour mark, and after teasing the visiting support the centre-half’s supplier Gaynor finally hit the mark himself to kill off the game in the second half. Dundalk themselves then offered Drogheda’s only reply as captain Liam Burns was unfortunate to divert a Paul Crowley shot into his own net. It was all too easy for Ian Foster’s side, who outclassed their opponents from start to finish to notch their first win at the venue in almost ten years and their first top-flight victory there since January 1994.
Despite Monday’s shock home defeat by table proppers Bray Wanderers, Foster stuck with the same starting XI, JJ Melligan again missing out through injury. And the manager’s faith was rewarded with just 96 seconds on the clock. Gaynor’s pinpoint delivery from a corner on the left found the head of Breen who guided his effort beyond ex-Lilywhites ‘keeper Paul Murphy. The start was in stark contrast to that made by Dundalk in the opening league derby back in March, and they importantly made their dominance count on the scoreboard as Breen doubled his tally on 16 minutes. Again Gaynor was the provider, this time simply passing a free-kick to the unmarked defender who, in oceans of space, sent a low first-time shot past the despairing dive of Murphy. It could have been a first-half hat-trick for Breen shortly after but his close-range header could only find the side-netting. Fahrudin Kuduzovic warmed the hands of the Drogheda netminder with a long-range effort which was pushed behind and Peter Cherrie had to be alert at the other end as the sides exchanged chances before the half-time whistle.
Though the hosts started brighter following the resumption, it was Dundalk who created all the openings, and in particular ex-Drogheda winger Gaynor, who was a livewire throughout. The 22-year-old should have made it 3-0 before the hour-mark when he rounded Murphy but off balance his shot went well off target, before he was thwarted again as, after getting free from the ‘keeper, he was pushed wide of goal. The impressive Stephen Maher forced Murphy into a fine save at his near post as Dundalk pressed for a third and killer goal, and it deservedly arrived on 68 minutes. Kuduzovic set Gaynor free once more with a neat through-ball and this time he made no mistake, finishing low under the advancing Murphy from the edge of the box. Drogheda offered almost nothing in attack, although Garreth O’Connor saw his dipping 25-yard shot crash back off the crossbar, and ten minutes later they nicked a consolation when Crowley’s effort was deflected past Cherrie by Burns. However, Dundalk will worry little about that as they now look forward to Monday’s mouth-watering visit of Shamrock Rovers, who they have not beaten at home in the league since October 1996.
DUNDALKFC.COM Man of the Match: STEPHEN MAHER (Dundalk) – It was an excellent team performance by a dominant Dundalk, the display all the more impressive considering the body blow of Monday’s defeat by Bray. To pick an individual performance is difficult, but Maher gets the vote. The 22-year-old has been pushing for this award for the past number of matches with a string of fine performances, and in Drogheda he was at his best, ruling midfield with partner Tom Miller. He was also unlucky not to find his second goal of the season, his effort bound for the top corner only to be stopped en-route by a fine save from Murphy. On the overall evidence of the past few weeks Maher should surely be high on the list of possibilities for Paul Doolin’s Irish U23 squad, who begin the International Challenge Trophy against England at the RSC on 26 May.
DROGHEDA UNITED FC (4-5-1): Paul Murphy; Corey Treacy, Alan McNally (Colm Smith HT), Jamie Harris, Joe Kendrick; Brian King, Garreth O’Connor, Paul Crowley, Michael Daly, Brendan McGill (Ryan Brennan 81); Glen Fitzpatrick.
Goal: L Burns OG (85).
Unused Subs: Paul Skinner (GK), Eric McGill, Damien Brennan.
DUNDALK FC (4-4-3): Peter Cherrie; Shaun Kelly, Liam Burns, Garry Breen, Wayne Hatswell; Neale Fenn (Tiarnán Mulvenna 76), Tom Miller, Stephen Maher; Ross Gaynor, Johnny Breen (Ciarán McGuigan 70), Fahrudin Kuduzovic.
Goals: G Breen (2, 16), R Gaynor (68).
Unused Subs: Matt Gregg (GK), Billy Smith, John Smyth.
Referee: Anthony Buttimer (Cork).