Rayhaan Tulloch’s late equaliser salvaged Dundalk a point against 10-men Shelbourne on a frustrating night at Tolka Park.
The on-loan winger was a menace to the Shels backline throughout and he has rewarded when he cut inside from the left to drill a low effort past Conor Kearns with 13 minutes to go.
At that stage, it looked like it would be one of those nights for Stephen O’Donnell’s side, especially when Robbie Benson saw an effort come back off the upright with Tulloch’s follow-up creeping agonisingly past the post.
After seeing Benson’s early penalty saved by Kearns, an incident that also led to Shelbourne being reduced to 10 men, Dundalk slipped behind when Jack Moylan converted a controversial spot kick in the 56th minute and with Kearns and the Shelbourne backline holding firm, they couldn’t find the breakthrough until Tulloch produced a moment of quality to level matters.
O’Donnell made three changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Derry City five days earlier with Alfie Lewis, Johannes Yli-Kokko and Rayhann Tulloch coming in for the suspended Wasiri Williams, Robbie McCourt and Greg Sloggett, the latter two becoming the latest players to join an ever-growing injury list.
Youngsters Eoin Kenny, Craig Moore, Sean Bannon and Jake Hough were named on the bench, alongside the likes of Patrick Hoban, Paul Doyle and Ryan O’Kane.
The game started at a frantic pace and Dundalk were handed a golden opportunity to draw first blood in the 11th minute when Tulloch drew a foul out of Andrew Quinn on the left. Referee Damien MacGraith pointed to the spot, and then brandished a red card to Shelbourne wing-back Shane Farrell in the aftermath, but when the dust had settled, Kearns kept Benson’s spot-kick out with a powerful hand.
Dundalk tried to take advantage of the numerical advantage by stretching the home side but it was Shels who created the clearest openings. Paddy Barrett had a goal ruled out by the official for a high boot on Nathan Shepperd after Evan Caffrey almost caught the Lilywhites netminder out with a clever free kick.
Archie Davies cut in from the right to test Kearns with a left-footed curler but the 10 men carried a threat and they almost pulled ahead in the 38th minute when Kian Leavy got away from Davies on the left and picked out Matty Smith at the near post but he couldn’t keep his effort down.
HT: Shelbourne 0-0 Dundalk FC
As expected, Dundalk controlled the play in the second half, enjoying 79.5% of the overall possession, but they left space at the back and were given another big scare when Moylan and Smith broke clear after a slip by Darragh Leahy but Shepperd was there to quickly snuff out the danger.
The referee pointed to the spot for a second time when Tulloch was adjudged to have clipped the heels of Evan Caffrey in the 56th minute. Replays showed that it was an extremely harsh decision but Moylan showed no mercy from the spot, sending Shepperd the wrong way.
O’Donnell sent Hoban into battle and Dundalk penned the hosts in for the final 25 minutes with Benson guiding an effort against the post and their perseverance finally paid off when Tulloch skipped past David Toure and Evan Caffrey to score his fourth goal for the club and give the travelling supporters something to shout about.
FT: Shelbourne 1-1 Dundalk FC
SHELBOURNE: Conor Kearns, Shane Farrell, Andrew Quinn (David Toure HT), Paddy Barrett, Luke Byrne, Shane Griffin, Evan Caffrey, JJ Lunney, Jack Moylan (Brian McManus 85), Matty Smith, Kian Leavy (Kameron Ledwidge 60). Subs not used: Scott van der Sluis (GK), Luke Browne, Jad Hakiki, Kyle Robinson, Gbemi Arubi, Lewis Temple.
DUNDALK FC: Nathan Shepperd, Archie Davies, Hayden Muller, Darragh Leahy, Robbie Benson, Johannes Yli-Kokko (Ryan O’Kane 51), Connor Malley (Patrick Hoban 60), Alfie Lewis (Paul Doyle 79), Keith Ward, Rayhaan Tulloch, John Martin. Subs not used: Eoin Kenny, Jake Hough, Sean Bannon, Craig Moore, Peter Cherrie (GK), Mark Byrne (GK).
REFEREE: Damien MacGraith.