Report: Monaghan United 2-1 Dundalk (AET)
Declan O’Brien’s 99th-minute strike saw Monaghan United continue their fine home record over Dundalk as they came from behind to win 2-1 and progress to the quarter-finals of the League Cup at Gortakeegan on Easter Monday afternoon. The Lilywhites had taken the lead midway through the first half when Keith Ward curled a delightful free-kick to the top corner. Monaghan, for all their possession, had few chances, although they had the ball in net on 70 minutes but O’Brien’s effort was ruled out for offside. They did, however, draw level ten minutes from time when Philip Byrne headed in Seán Brennan’s cross, and O’Brien ensured Monaghan preserved their five-year unbeaten home record against the Louth side with a clinical finish in extra-time.
Dundalk manager Ian Foster handed first-team debuts to youngsters Chris Kerr and Cian Byrne. Mark Griffin and Philip Duffy were given their full debuts while Johnny Breen was given his second start of the year. The starting lineup had an average age of 19.9, 26-year-old goalkeeper Paul Murphy the eldest, with Simon Madden, at 22, the oldest outfield player. But it was the visitors that had the first shot on goal in the opening seconds as Kerr’s cross was flicked goalwards by Duffy whose effort was gathered by Gabriel Sava. Monaghan pressed thereafter and forced a number of corners, but none could test Murphy. On 17 minutes, Dundalk had their first chance when Griffin found himself in behind but Conor McMahon got back to cover, his pass back to Sava not spotted by referee Tom Connolly.
Monaghan’s John Reilly then attempted an overhead kick which posed no danger to the Dundalk goal, and just seconds later the visitors were in front. Breen was fouled 25-yards from goal, and Ward stood up to curl a magnificent free-kick to Sava’s top right-hand corner. The home side, who responded by introducing Ryan Brennan, continued to hold most of the possession but they couldn’t make it count with chances. And it was Dundalk who again threatened, on 40 minutes, when Breen’s bending effort from a tight angle almost looped in over Sava, but it cleared the goal. Monaghan continued on the front foot but Dundalk, with two 18-year-olds and a 17-year-old in their backline, defended stoutly and held the lead until half-time. After the break, Foster’s side started positively, with Ward’s through-ball almost finding Griffin.
Monaghan could have been level on 53 minutes, but after the ball fell to him on the right of the box, Paul Whelan shot tamely at Murphy from ten-yards. Shortly after, Michael Hector fired a free-kick from halfway towards the top corner but Sava had plenty of time to weigh it up, with the Italian ‘keeper gathering on the line. On the hour mark, Dundalk introduced both Daniel Kearns and Ross Gaynor. Before the midway point of the second period, Griffin, after doing well to create space for a shot, fired into the arms of Sava. Monaghan, after a brief spell of pressure early on in the half, were threatening little in attack. On 70 minutes, however, they had the ball in the net when O’Brien tapped in sub Michael Isichei’s low cross to the back post, but Rhona Daly raised her flag to signal offside.
Moments later, Monaghan had another great opening when Eric Foley’s ball found Isichei in the clear, but from inside the box his shot went over Murphy and narrowly over the bar. Dundalk then made their final change as Mark Quigley replaced Griffin. Roddy Collins’ men continued to have chance, as Isichei headed wide from a Shane Grimes delivery from the left. And Monaghan drew level on 80 minutes, after a succession of crosses, when sub Seán Brennan’s cross from the right was headed in at the back post by central defender Philip Byrne. Dundalk responded well, with crosses from Ward and Gaynor cut out. At the other end, Grimes almost got on the end of a free-kick but it ran wide. On the stroke of full-time, Whelan headed a Seán Brennan corner wide, before, at the other end, Quigley stung the palms of Sava who pushed over following a long-range effort. And with the last kick of normal time, Gaynor had a chance to win it but Sava gathered at the second attempt.
In the opening seconds of extra-time, Quigley drove narrowly wide from distance. Dundalk had the first real chance of the extra 30 minutes when Breen almost turned in Nathan Murphy’s low cross from the left but Sava saved. But Monaghan were in front on 99 minutes for the first time when O’Brien found himself in behind the Dundalk defence and, from the right side of the box, he finished coolly to the far bottom corner. Hector then saw a shot from the left of the box held by the home netminder. At the end of the first half, Isichei found space on the right and shot low, his effort not far wide of Murphy’s bottom right-hand post. On 108 minutes, Murphy pushed away a shot from O’Brien. Dundalk failed to create an opening in the closing minutes and for the second year in a row they exited the League Cup at the hands of Monaghan.
MONAGHAN UNITED FC (5-4-1): Gabriel Sava;, Paul Whelan, Conor McMahon (Seán Brennan 50), Dave Rogers, Philip Byrne, Shane Grimes; John Reilly, Don Tierney (Ryan Brennan 23), Eric Foley, Jason Marks (Michael Isichei 60); Declan O’Brien.
Goals: P Byrne (80), D O’Brien (99).
Booked: P Whelan (25).
Unused Subs: Jake Rossiter (GK), Jimmy Fallon, Kevin Loughran, Garbhan McKenna.
DUNDALK FC (4-1-3-2): Paul Murphy; Simon Madden ©, Cian Byrne, Michael Hector, Nathan Murphy; Stephen McDonnell; Philip Duffy (Daniel Kearns 60), Keith Ward, Chris Kerr (Ross Gaynor 60); Mark Griffin (Mark Quigley 74), Johnny Breen.
Goal: K Ward (21).
Booked: S McDonnell (33), C Kerr (34), M Quigley (93).
Unused Subs: Peter Cherrie (GK), Jason Byrne, Stephen Hutchinson.
Referee: Tom Connolly (Dublin).