Report | Dundalk FC 0-0 Finn Harps
After the exhilaration of qualifying for the group stages of the Europa League on Thursday night, Dundalk were brought crashing back down to earth on Sunday evening as a dogged Finn Harps held on for a well-earned share of the spoils at Oriel Park.
The result is a big blow to the Lilywhites’ hopes of qualifying for Europe next season and with just six league games to play, Filippo Giovagnoli’s side remain stranded in sixth place in the SSE Airtricity League table.
As expected, the Italian rang the changes, making 10 alterations to the side that beat KI Klaksvik at the Aviva Stadium three nights earlier. Brian Gartland was the only survivor & for large spells, the Lilywhites looked disjointed.
Ollie Horgan’s side, who started the game third from bottom and in dire need of the points themselves, started in positive fashion but Dundalk created a gilt-edged opening with their first attack of the game with eight minutes played.
Celebrating his 25th birthday, Jordan Flores almost marked the occasion with an assist, spinning away from a Harps player with a sublime bit of skill on the left touchline before curling an inviting ball across the face of goal which David McMillan just couldn’t steer home from close range.
The visitors gave as good as they got for much of the opening 20 minutes but Aaron McCarey was rarely tested with Kosovar Sadiki heading well over the top after meeting a Barry McNamee corner.
At the other end, Daniel Kelly picked up where he left off at the Aviva Stadium on Thursday night with some dangerous runs that had Harps back peddling but the hosts lacked an end product in the final third.
Flores and Brian Gartland almost picked the well-drilled Harps defence with a couple of incisive passes that just carried too much weight and Dundalk finished the half looking for a breakthrough with Nathan Oduwa denied in quick succession by Mark McGinley.
The winger’s first effort came at the end of a forceful run that saw him enter the penalty area, the second a long-range drive that the Harps ‘keeper did well to turn around the post for a corner.
Oduwa also had a decent shout for a penalty waved away by referee Paul McLaughlin in stoppage time and a frustrating opening period from a Dundalk point of view ended scoreless.
Giovagnoli moved quickly to freshen things up in the second half, making a triple substitution in the 54th minute to bring on Patrick McEleney, Greg Sloggett and Michael Duffy. Stefan Colovic was also introduced 10 minutes later as Dundalk tried to up the tempo.
Harps, however, dug in and made life extremely difficult for the Lilywhites to prize them open and they showed flickering signs of danger themselves with Barry McNamee cutting in from the right to test Aaron McCarey with 10 minutes to go.
McLaughlin waved away another penalty appeal two minutes later when Sloggett appeared to have been pushed in the back from a corner & Dundalk’s mood was summed up in stoppage time when Giovagnoli’s assistant Giuseppe Rossi was given a red card by McLaughlin for dissent.
DUNDALK FC: Aaron McCarey; John Mountney, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Cameron Dummigan; Chris Shields, Jordan Flores (Greg Sloggett 54); Daniel Kelly (Michael Duffy 54), Will Patching (Patrick McEleney 54), Nathan Oduwa (Stefan Colovic 63); David McMillan. Subs not used: Gary Rogers (GK), Daniel Cleary, Joshua Gatt.
FINN HARPS: Mark McGinley; Leo Donnellan (Tony McNamee 90), Kosovar Sadiki, Stephen Folan; David Webster, Gareth Harkin (Ryan Connolly 74), Shane McEleney, Barry McNamee, Mark Russell; Karl O’Sullivan (Adam Foley 74), Alex Kogler (Mark Coyle 67). Subs not used: Raffaele Cretaro, Sam Todd, Patrick McGarvey.
REFEREE: Paul McLaughlin.