Report & Photo Gallery: Dundalk 1-1 Shamrock Rovers
Jason Byrne’s 178th league goal, which saw him move into third in the all-time League of Ireland scorers list, was enough to earn Dundalk a well-deserved point against leaders Shamrock Rovers as they played out an exciting 1-1 draw at Oriel Park on May Bank Holiday Monday afternoon. Karl Sheppard had shot the visitors into a 16th-minute lead when he latched onto Enda Stevens’ long ball down the left, but the Lilywhites’ unbeaten home record in the league remained intact thanks to Byrne’s cool finish from the penalty spot on 37 minutes, as he moved level with Dundalk legend Turlough O’Connor and within four of second-placed Pat Morley.
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Dundalk made one change to the team that drew with Bray Wanderers three days earlier as Daniel Kearns, who pulled out in the warm-up on Friday, returned to take Johnny Breen’s place. Manager Ian Foster watched most of the first half from the stand, with Darius Kierans giving orders from the sideline. After a quiet opening in terms of chances, Rovers started the better, and they were ahead after 16 minutes when Stevens played a ball down the left which cut open the Dundalk defence, Sheppard left with just Peter Cherrie to beat, and he made no mistake with the finish as he shot low through the Scot’s legs. The home side tried to reply immediately but a Ross Gaynor free-kick from 20-yards failed to trouble visiting ‘keeper Alan Mannus.
On 35 minutes, Dundalk created their first chance when Kearns’ free-kick from the left was met by Mark Quigley on the edge of the box and his back-flick forced Mannus to push behind. Gaynor’s resulting corner was put low into the six-yard box but no home player could get a foot to it. Within seconds, however, Dundalk, with Foster back in the dugout, were level. The strong wind held the ball up and Stevens fouled Quigley, with referee Derek Tomney having no choice but to point to the spot. Byrne stood up and coolly slotted beyond Mannus. Rovers looked the more likely to regain their lead before half-time but Dundalk held firm to go in level.
The visitors started the second half on the attack, but Gary O’Neill’s ball over the top was too strong and Ronan Finn shot wide from 20-yards. On 55 minutes, as Dundalk upped the tempo, Gaynor’s cross from the left was low and dangerous but Ken Oman cleaned up, with Byrne ready to pounce at the back post. Shortly after, Gaynor, this time from the right, delivered an in-swinging corner onto the head of Michael Hector and Mannus had to be brave to push behind. And Dundalk and Hector were on the attack once more when Byrne broke the offside trap down the right, with the striker’s low cross just behind the inrushing on-loan Reading defender. The home side, though, had to be on guard at the back, and Sheppard was in behind the defence once again before the hour mark but, with just Cherrie to beat, he blasted over.
Rovers came more into it after that and Hawkins had to be alert to deny Sheppard a shooting opportunity, while Finn drove over from the right of the box. Dundalk continued to threaten and Gaynor’s cross caused problems on 62 minutes, Rovers eventually clearing. On 72 minutes, Rovers claimed a penalty after a goalmouth scramble somehow ended with the ball landing on the roof of the net. Moments later, the Hoops had another shout for a spot-kick but once again the protests were waved away, with the ball dropping to Pat Sullivan 30-yards from goal, his effort not dipping in time as it flew over. With a minute left of normal time, Rovers had their loudest shout for a penalty when Gaynor appeared to trip Sheppard. Nothing was given and visiting manager Michael O’Neill was sent to the stand for his protestations, and Dundalk defended stoutly to earn a point.
DUNDALK FC: Peter Cherrie; Simon Madden ©, Colin Hawkins, Michael Hector, Nathan Murphy; Stephen McDonnell, Keith Ward; Daniel Kearns, Mark Quigley, Ross Gaynor; Jason Byrne.
Goal: J Byrne (37 pen).
Booked: S McDonnell (61), R Gaynor (88).
Unused Subs: Paul Murphy (GK), Mark Griffin, Johnny Breen, Chris Kerr, Philip Duffy, Stephen Hutchinson.
SHAMROCK ROVERS FC: Alan Mannus; Pat Sullivan, Dan Murray ©, Ken Oman, Enda Stevens; Gary McCabe (Paddy Kavanagh 67), Stephen Rice, Ronan Finn, Billy Dennehy (Dean Kelly 82); Gary O’Neill (Ciarán Kilduff 72), Karl Sheppard.
Goal: K Sheppard (16).
Booked: G O’Neill (64), P Sullivan (86), E Stevens (90+3).
Unused Subs: Ryan Thompson (GK), Pat Flynn, Conor McCormack, Seán Gannon.
Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin).