Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
# turning point
A night of penalty drama in league title race as Dundalk held by Shamrock Rovers
Oriel Park was the setting for a game that could have a big bearing on the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division title race.

Dundalk goalkeeper Peter Cherrie celebrates with Andy Boyle after Shamrock Rovers' Ryan Brennan misses a penalty Dundalk goalkeeper Peter Cherrie celebrates with Andy Boyle after Shamrock Rovers' Ryan Brennan misses a penalty

Dundalk 0-0 Shamrock Rovers

REFEREE ROB ROGERS was the villain of the piece on a night that promised a fairytale but ended in frustration for Dundalk as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Shamrock Rovers.

The results gives Cork City a glimmer of hope in the race for the SSE Airtricity League title, which is set to go down to a final day clash at Oriel Park.

The mood on the Carrick Road was expectant, but that soon developed into tension as Dundalk failed to display a rhythm in their passing and incision in their forward play that the patrons at Oriel have become accustomed to of late.

Rovers could have nicked it. On a rare foray forward, Karl Sheppard was upended by Peter Cherrie and Rogers, unpopular as it was, pointed to the spot. Ryan Brennan, a former Drogheda United man no less, blazed over the bar. To be fair, he slipped as it made contact with the ball.

Stephen Kenny’s men did start slightly the better however and when Darren Meenan beat Luke Byrne in a foot race to the byline, his cross was met by Kurtis Byrne who beat Barry Murphy and the bar with his shot.

Rovers only chances of note in the opening period came via free-kicks but they made little of them. Both Gary McCabe and Stephen McPhail were guilty of hitting their efforts straight into the wall, the former on several occasions. They could have been made to pay by Dundalk as they improved towards half time.

Both Daryl Horgan and Pat Hoban sent efforts tamely wide. The former Cork City winger in particular was proving hard to handle.

The second half was much of the same, but this time, chances were at even more of a premium than before. Every once in a while, the home fans willed their side on with a roar. Stephen Kenny did his part to cajole and inspire both players and fans from the touchline.

The biggest roar of the evening came in the second half when Dundalk’s captain Stephen O’Donnell returned to the Oriel Park turf for the first time since suffering his serious knee injury on home ground back in April. He replaced Kurtis Byrne.

It was against Rovers that O’Donnell crumpled to the ground in agony and the hugely popular figure on the Carrick Road has missed six months of football since. His arrival onto the field was met by rapturous applause. It was almost as if any potential victory played second fiddle to the captain’s return.

Dundalk could have snatched it at the end. O’Donnell sent a long range effort just wide of the upright. But that disappointed paled in comparison to what was to come in injury. As the former Rovers midfielder raced into the box, Richie Towell for company, the ball appeared to strike Simon Madden on the arm. Referee Rogers waved away the sizeable protests.

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In injury time, Rovers midfielder Patrick Cregg was dismissed for a second bookable offence.

As it is in the league run-in, Dundalk go one point clear of Cork City. This coming Friday’s games aside, it’s shaping up for a showdown at Oriel Park in 11 days time.

DUNDALK: Peter Cherrie, Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey, Chris Shields (Ruaidhri Higgins, 73), Richie Towell, Daryl Horgan (Mark Griffin, 82), Darren Meenan, Kurtis Byrne (Stephen O’Donnell, 58), Patrick Hoban.

Substitutes: Gabriel Sava, Mark Rossiter, John Mountney, Donal McDermott.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Barry Murphy, Simon Madden, Jason McGuinness, Conor Kenna, Luke Byrne, Stephen McPhail, Ryan Brennan (Robert Bayly, 92), Patrick Cregg, Gary McCabe (Karl Sheppard, 67), Kieran Marty Waters (Dean Kelly, 85), Ciaran Kilduff.

Substitutes: Craig Hyland, Sean Heaney, Robert Cornwall, Shane Robinson.

REFEREE: Rob Rogers (Dublin)

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