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Dundalk's European chase drags on as Pat's star Benson comes back to haunt former club

Pat Hoban scored the opening goal in Inchicore, but the race for third place now comes down to the wire.

Dundalk manager Filippo Giovagnoli.
Dundalk manager Filippo Giovagnoli.
Image: ©INPHO

St Patrick’s Athletic 1

Dundalk 1

THIS IS A mission that will go down to the wire for Filippo Giovagnoli.

The Italian described it as a kamikaze one when he arrived at Dundalk in August but, with just one Premier Division game remaining, the Lilywhites have yet to secure European football in 2021.

This 1-1 draw with St Patrick’s Athletic means victory at home to Sligo Rovers is needed to guarantee further adventures on the continent.

That they have a trip to Austria in midweek to face Rapid Vienna in the Europa League will only add to the sense of trepidation next Sunday.

Even before their 3-0 defeat to Arsenal on Thursday, the focus was on this fixture.

It would leave a sour taste during the remainder of that Europa League campaign if they will be keeping the passports in the drawer for the first time since 2012.

European qualification was the number one aim when Giovagnoli replaced Vinny Perth and, once Pat Hoban tapped home in the 23rd minute it looked as if they would ease to a precious three points.

But former Dundalk stalwart Robbie Benson produced a stunning equaliser, leaping powerfully to outmuscle Sean Hoare and meeting Lee Desmond’s cross with a deft header which beat Gary Rogers.

It’s always the simple things that work a treat, as the visitors also showed with their opener.

For the best part of the opening half-an-hour, Giovagnoli continually shouted at Sean Gannon to stay high and wide on the right side.

The wing back did as he was told, and this created a pocket of space just inside him. The Italian head coach reminded Stefan Colovic that he was to drop in and try and find the gaps in front for the runs of Hoban and Michael Duffy.

In the 23rd minute, the fluidity of Dundalk’s attacking movement paid dividends. Colovic struck a deep cross to the back post where left wing back Darragh Leahy met it with a first-time touch across the six-yard box.

Hoban, as ever, stole a march on the Saints back three and was on hand to prod home.

So simple, so effective.

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robbie-benson Robbie Benson. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

And at complete odds with a rudderless St Pat’s attack that wasted two gilt-edged chances either side of Hoban’s finish.

It’s not hard to see why they had scored just 12 goals in the league coming into this game – only relegated Cork have fewer – with Billy King firing a tame shot straight at Rogers from 12 yards and strike partner Jordan Gibson missing the target with the goal gaping after rounding the Dundalk stopper.

Centre back Brian Gartland had retreated to the line but it was a terrible attempt and seemed to be an indication of how things would pan out.

But the hosts didn’t let their heads drop after the break and it was courtesy of Benson’s superb leap in the 64th minute that they nicked a point.

It could be vital for the Saints as they bid to avoid the promotion/relegation play-off and the manner of how they ground out this draw bodes well with champions Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians still to come.

St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Rory Feely, Luke McNally, Lee Desmond, Ian Bermingham (c), Shane Griffin; Jamie Lennon, Chris Forrester, Robbie Benson; Jordan Gibson (James Doona ’85), Billy King (Darragh Burns ’80). Booked: Forrester ‘58

Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon (John Mountney ’67), Sean Hoare, Brian Gartland, Daniel Cleary (Andy Boyle ’77), Darragh Leahy (Cameron Dummigan ’67); Greg Slogget, Chris Shields (c), Stefan Colovic (Jordan Flores ’56); Michael Duffy (David McMillan ’77), Pat Hoban. Booked: Hoban ’58, Hoare ‘85

Referee: Paul McLaughlin.

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About the author:

David Sneyd  / Reports from Richmond Park

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