Dundalk share spoils with Shamrock Rovers after Oriel Park thriller

Rovers’ skipper Conor Kenna received a straight red card in the second half of a feisty encounter.

Richie Towell fires in a penalty for Dundalk.
Richie Towell fires in a penalty for Dundalk.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Dundalk 2-2 Shamrock Rovers

AS THRILLING ENCOUNTERS go, this was up there with the very best the SSE Airtrcity League has to offer. A second half played at breakneck speed lit up an always feisty encounter which saw Dundalk relinquish their lead at the top of the Premier Division.

Their 2-2 draw with Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park was, however, marred by two incidents involving their respective captains.

Stephen O’Donnell was stretched off in first-half stoppage time with a suspected cruciate injury while Rovers’ skipper Conor Kenna received a straight red card in the second half.

The talk before this game wasn’t so much about the potential for a mouth-watering clash between two of the league’s top three but more so Trevor Croly’s comments after Rovers’ midweek Setanta Cup defeat in Dundalk.

With both clubs having shown their title credentials in glimpses over the opening weeks of the season, perhaps it should have been. The early stages at Oriel certainly didn’t fail to whet the appetite of a near-capacity crowd. Needless to say, the floodgates were well and truly opened in a match that was more than liberally sprinkled with quality football.

Ciaran Kilduff celebrates scoring the first goal with teammates Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Shortly after O’Donnell poked Dundalk’s first chance over the bar, the visitors hit the lead. Ronan Finn’s through ball to Ciaran Kilduff split Dane Massey and Andy Boyle and the in-form striker struck the ball across Peter Cherrie and into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

Unsurprisingly, the Hoops brought with them a much larger away support than they did for Tuesday’s cup defeat. Although they saw their side take a 13th-minute lead, it was Dundalk who looked more dangerous on the break. Sean Gannon drove at rookie Sean Heaney down Dundalk’s right at every opportunity.

Richie Towell and O’Donnell contrived to fluff a couple of chances that came their way but the Lilywhites’ best chance came when Ruaidhri Higgins’ free kick was allowed to travel to the back post where Boyle’s close-range effort was saved by Barry Murphy.

Stephen O'Donnell has to be stretchered off the pitch after injuring his knee Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

While the home side pressed, their charge was dealt a blow when captain O’Donnell was the victim of a hefty Shane Robinson challenge. The former Drogheda United man was hardly popular in these parts as it was but when he scythed down O’Donnell in winning the ball, the Dundalk midfielder’s night was over. He was carried off to a rapturous applause.

The equaliser sparked a fast and decidedly furious few moments. Ten minutes into the second half, Hoban met a Darren Meenan corner. The ball struck Kenna’s outstretched arm and referee Paul McLaughlin pointed to the spot.

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Connor Kenna is shown a red card by referee Paul McLaughlin Straight red for Kenna. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Towell sent Murphy the wrong way to equalise and as the protests continued after the goal, Kenna and Horgan clashed. This time referee McLaughlin showed the Rovers skipper a straight red.

Dundalk had an equaliser, the momentum and an extra man, and on 61 minutes they hit the front.

Horgan broke the Rovers defensive line and poked it through to substitute Meenan who showed good composure to steady himself and slot past Murphy.

Darren Meenan celebrates scoring a goal Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Dundalk could have put the gloss on in the last minute of normal time when Meenan broke away but dragged his shot wide. Then, McMillan saw his header come off the post from a corner.

They were left to rue those chances. In the first minute of injury time, Ronan Finn broke through to fire past Cherrie and break home hearts. A gloss seal to a big win seemed a million miles away by the full time whistle.

Dundalk: Peter Cherrie, Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Ruaidhri Higgins, Stephen O’Donnell (Darren Meenan, 45), Daryl Horgan (Chris Shields, 81), John Mountney, Patrick Hoban (David McMillan, 84), Dane Massey, Richie Towell.

Substitutes: Kurtis Byrne, Chris Shields, Mark Griffin, David McMillan, Mark Rossiter, Darren Meenan, Gabriel Sava.

Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy, Simon Madden, Conor Kenna, Jason McGuinness, Sean Heaney, Gary McCabe (Kieran Marty Waters, 65), Shane Robinson, Ronan Finn, Stephen McPhail (Robert Bayly 67), Ciaran Kilduff, Eamon Zayed (Robert Cornwall, 58).

Subsitutes: Robert Cornwall, Kieran M. Waters, David O’Connor, Ryan Brennan, Robert Bayly, Kark Sheppard, Craig Hyland.

Referee: Paul McLaughlin.

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