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New-look Dundalk hold on to start 2021 campaign with a draw

Sligo Rovers came from behind after Patrick McEleney gave the visitors an early lead.

Sligo Rovers 1
Dundalk 1

Jessica Farry reports from The Showgrounds

DUNDALK SURVIVED A late onslaught from Sligo Rovers to secure a draw in their opening game of the 2021 Premier Division campaign.

The Lilywhites took the lead early on through Patrick McEleney, but Sligo were back on level terms minutes later thanks to Jamaican Romeo Parkes, who returned from a year in the US. Rovers looked the most likely to secure a winner late on, but their chances went amiss.

walter-figueira-with-patrick-mceleney Walter Figueira of Sligo Rovers and Dundalk's Patrick McEleney battle for possession. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The hosts named six debutants on the bench for their league opener, with Colm Horgan, Robbie McCourt, Greg Bolger, Jordan Gibson, Walter Figueira and Johnny Kenny Junior making their first competitive starts for the club.

Dundalk manager Shane Keegan named new signings Alessio Abibi, Sonni Nattesad, Raivis Juskovskis and Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe in their first starting XI of the campaign.

The Louth men came into this game on the back of their President’s Cup victory over Shamrock Rovers, with ambitions of improving on their third place league finish in 2020.

The Bit O’Red enjoyed a strong end to the season, finishing in fourth and securing a place in Europe, despite losing their opening four games.

Following a lively start, the visitors went ahead on 15 minutes. Rovers goalkeeper Ed McGinty left a pass too short for Bolger, and the former Shamrock Rovers man was dispossessed by Greg Sloggett who spotted McEleney, with the ex-Derry City player firing past McGinty.

Liam Buckley’s side could have been back on level terms six minutes later when Garry Buckley’s superb ball landed at the feet of 17-year-old Kenny, with the Sligo native shaking off Nattestad before dragging his shot wide.

Rovers were settling more into the game and were deservedly level after 22 minutes. An inviting free-kick from McCourt was met by Parkes, who rose perfectly to beat Abibi in the Dundalk goals.

Kenny, the son of former Sligo Rovers player Johnny Kenny Senior, again caused problems for the Lilywhites’ rearguard moments later. Under pressure from the Sligo youngster, Dundalk’s Andy Boyle’s attempted clearance came off the corner flag. With Kenny alert, he regained possession before charging towards goal, but his effort was blocked by Dan Cleary.

The FAI Cup holders had some defending to do, and were caught by Parkes who fought off Chris Shields before beating a number of white shirts, and playing a purposeful ball to Jordan Gibson, who was bursting through on the right-hand side. The former St Patrick’s Athletic man, however, could only watch on as his shot hit the underside of the crossbar.

Pat Hoban fired wide just before half-time after McGinty was caught out by a clever ball from Cleary, with former Sligo man Junior on hand to capitalise by squaring it to Hoban who failed to keep it on target.

Both Hoban and Sloggett tested McGinty in the early stages of the second half, but the visitors should have gone ahead when Jurkovskis’ cross was headed on by Hoban, beating the Rovers netminder before hitting the post.

Sligo continued in search of a winner and looked the most likely to score in the closing stages. Substitute Mark Byrne set up a move involving Horgan and Gibson with a dangerous cross looking for Kenny, but the youngster couldn’t connect.

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Kenny, who signed his first professional contract during the winter, ran on to a ball, held off the pressure from Nattesad and took his chance from distance, but Abibi just got his body in front of it.

Liam Buckley’s men thought they had snatched all three points at the death, but the linesman’s flag had been raised as Mark Byrne tucked the ball into the back of the net. Bolger was next to try to steal a winner, but his long-range drive was forced away by Abibi.

The visitors were able to breathe a sigh of relief when referee Neil Doyle blew up for full-time.

SLIGO ROVERS: Ed McGinty, Colm Horgan, Garry Buckley, John Mahon, Robbie McCourt; Jordan Gibson, Greg Bolger, Niall Morahan, Romeo Parkes (Mark Byrne, 72), Walter Figueira (David Cawley,72), Johnny Kenny.

DUNDALK: Alessio Abibi, Andy Boyle, Daniel Cleary, Sonni Nattesad, Raivis Jurkovskis, Patrick McEleney (Sam Stanton, 69), Chris Shields, Cameron Dummigan, Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe (Michael Duffy, 69), Greg Sloggett, Patrick Hoban.

Referee: Neil Doyle.

About the author:

Jessica Farry

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