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Stalemate between Pat's and Dundalk on a night of rancour and anger

Goalkeeper Nathan Shepperd produced two stunning saves from Eoin Doyle to earn the visitors a point.

Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

St Patrick’s Athletic 0
Dundalk 0

FOR ALL THE bluster and acrimony, this clash ended in a stalemate.

Nathan Shepperd is the sole reason for that.

The Dundalk goalkeeper produced two almost identical saves to deny St Patrick’s Athletics’s Eoin Doyle from six yards.

On both occasions it looked as if the striker’s headers were arrowed toward the net.

On both occasions Shepperd married agility with anticipation to push the ball over the bar at the last second.

They were two instances of top-class quality on a night that had its moments, but couldn’t muster a decisive blow.

The same could be said for the apparent hostilities that awaited the returning Stephen O’Donnell, who took his place in the Dundalk dugout six months after leading Pat’s to FAI Cup glory.

lewis-macari-and-eoin-doyle Eoin Doyle heads for goal. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The manner of his swift exit following that success led to rancour and hurt around Inchicore, but other than the usual songs and banners decrying him as a traitor, it was welcome he could well handle.

‘Whacking Day,’ proclaimed one flag, continuing that theme of treachery, which had a snake about to get a clatter from Homer Simpson wearing a Pat’s jersey and wielding a shillelagh.

And after only four minutes there was almost a comical opening goal when Shepperd and full back Darragh Leahy whacked into each other needlessly.

A harmless cross was dropping between the pair, all it would have taken was basic communication to sort the situation, but instead they collided, and the ball sprung loose for the onrushing Darragh Burns.

The lively Saints winger, who produced some dazzling moments of skill, just wasn’t able to turn his shot on target.

It was the home side on top and central to their control was birthday boy Adam O’Reilly, who celebrated his 17th in bittersweet fashion.

He was entrusted to fill the creative void left by the absent Chris Forrester, who hadn’t been flagged as an injury concern in the build up, and for 24 minutes he was doing that.

darragh-burns-and-darragh-leahy Darragh Burns takes on Darragh Leahy. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The teenager looked neat and tidy in possession but was anything but safe, picking out two arrowed through balls to open the space in the final third and get his side on the attack.

The first was a neat pass that split right full Lewis Macari and centre back Mark Connolly on that side, Ronan Coughlan strode onto it but sliced his finish wide as he opened out his body for the shot into the far corner.

It was a warning and, moments later from the opposite flank, Murphy took possession with a couple of Dundalk bodies around him, he created space with quick feet and then – perhaps with a nod to this weekend’s Masters – chopped a chipping wedge of a pass for Billy King to run onto.

He beat the offside trap and also the onrushing Shepperd, but he couldn’t get a shot away in time before the angle got the better of him.

Then came the bitter for Murphy, limping off with a hamstring injury on 24 minutes after tussling for possession with Gregg Sloggett.

He naturally seemed distressed as he was helped off the pitch by a member of the Pat’s medical staff, and it was a blow felt by his teammates too as they struggled to maintain their dominance.

Burns shone on the right with a couple of nut megs on the run but when the balls went into the penalty box the threat tapered out.

ronan-coughlan Ronan Coughlan rises for a header. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Indeed, it was Dundalk who almost went into the break a goal up after a well-worked moved carved open a great chance.

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They built up play down the right with frontman Pat Hoban drifting wide before pulling a cross back to edge of the box where Robbie Benson looked destined to slot home.

His shot was blocked by James Abankwah, who read the danger and was able to snuff out the threat.

The second half toiled after the re-start and it wasn’t until the 63rd either side managed an effort on goal of any note.

And it was more about the save than anything else.

tom-grivosti-and-robbie-benson Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Shepperd produced a stunning tip over from right under the crossbar when it had looked as if Doyle’s header from Burns’ cross was destined for the roof of the net.

The Wales Under-21 international somehow kept it out and, in case anyone was wondering how he managed it, he repeated the feat in almost identical circumstances four minutes from time.

Burns, this time from a deeper position, delivered a dangerous ball and Doyle again peeled off to power a header.

Sheppard, somehow, flung himself at it and his outstretched hand had the strength to earn his side a point.

St Patrick’s Athletic: Joseph Anang; James Abankwah, Joe Redmond, Tom Grivosti, Anto Breslin; Adam O’Reilly, Adam Murphy (Jason McClelland 24’); Darragh Burns, Ronan Coughlan (Mark Doyle, 64’), Billy King (Tunde Owolabi, 84’); Eoin Doyle (captain).

Dundalk: Nathan Sheppard; Lewis Macari, Mark Connolly, Andy Boyle, Darragh Leahy; Paul Doyle (Dan Williams, h-t); Steven Bradley (Joe Adams, 69’), Greg Sloggett (Keith Ward, 77’), Robbie Benson, Daniel Kelly; Patrick Hoban (captain) (David McMillan, 89’).

Referee: Rob Harvey.

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