by Robert O'Reilly
Dundalk moved level on points with St. Patrick’s Athletic at the summit of the Airtricity Premier Division as they defeated Drogheda United 1-0 in the Louth derby at Oriel Park.
A goal two minutes from time by Stephen O’Donnell following a mistake by Alan McNally gifted Dundalk a fortunate victory having been matched stride for stride by United for the majority of the game.
Michael Daly and Cathal Brady returned to the starting eleven from Drogheda’s 1-1 draw with Sligo Rovers on Tuesday as Phillip Hand and Paul O’Conor dropped to the bench while the Lilywhites made two changes from last Friday’s 2-0 victory over UCD as Tiarnan Mulvenna and John Mountney replaced Kurtis Byrne and Brian Gartland.
Dundalk created the first opportunity of the game inside 60 seconds when a quick throw in from Dane Massey released O’Donnell down the left but his cutback across goal was missed by Patrick Hoban.
Drogheda attacks were rare in the early stages and it was Richie Towell who was the first to test the goalkeeper but his free kick from the edge of the box was easily saved by Micheál Schlingermann.
The away side grew into the game and good play on the right wing by Declan O’Brien saw the striker cut the ball back for David Cassidy but the midfielder’s effort was deflected wide.
United had the ball in the back of the net on 40 minutes when Daly headed past Peter Cherrie from a Cassidy corner but Referee Alan Kelly disallowed the goal for a foul in the build up as Drogheda went into the interval in the ascendancy.
The first genuine chance of the game came on 57 minutes as Drogheda’s record goal scorer O’Brien instinctively flicked on Daly’s cross but a stunning save from Cherrie kept the game scoreless.
The Boynesiders squandered another chance with 15 minutes left to play as a dangerous delivery from Cassidy found Alan Byrne at the backpost but the midfielder’s initial effort was parried by Cherrie and he fired wide on the rebound with the goal at his mercy.
Drogheda tested Cherrie again as the game entered its closing stages when Byrne’s cross from the right found Daly in space but his header was straight at the Dundalk stopper.
It was against the run of play that the derby was decided, Schlingermann threw the ball out to McNally and the usually composed defender stumbled in possession which presented O’Donnell with a clear opportunity on goal and he slid the ball past the Drogheda Keeper much to the delight of the relieved home crowd.
Dundalk were reduced to ten men in additional time as Chris Shields picked up a second yellow card for bringing down Gary O’Neill as he raced in on goal but O’Brien fired the resulting free kick well over the bar as the Lilywhites hung on to a vital three points.
Mick Cooke’s men will be looking to bounce back from defeat as they travel to Ballybofey on Friday to take on Finn Harps in the Quarter Final of the FAI Cup.
by Robert O'Reilly
The final Louth derby of the season will take place on Sunday as Drogheda United aim to derail the title challenge of close rivals Dundalk, kick off 6pm.
The game has taken on added significance following St. Patrick’s Athletic’s scoreless draw away at Limerick on Saturday meaning that if Dundalk win they will go level on points with the Saints at the top with six games remaining.
Dundalk are the form team in the Premier Division having won their last five matches at home and are also on an unbeaten run of eight league games, having last tasted defeat back in June.
The Lilywhites will be without the suspended Kurtis Byrne and the injured Keith Ward while John Mountney is a doubt with an ankle injury.
As for Drogheda, they come into the game on the back of an impressive 1-1 draw at home to Sligo Rovers on Tuesday, a result that leaves them in midtable.
United have had better success in the cup competitions compared to the league this season having already reached the Setanta Cup final, Drogheda will take on Shamrock Rovers in the EA Sports Cup final in a fortnight while they are still in the last eight of the FAI Cup.
Graham Rusk is the only definite absentee for the Drogs while both Michael Daly and Paul O’Conor will require late fitness tests.
The sides have met twice this season with Dundalk edging affairs as they came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Oriel park in March while the Lillywhites were victorious 1-0 at Hunky Dorys Park courtesy of a late Patrick Hoban strike.
Speaking ahead of the game, Drogheda boss Mick Cooke is relishing the opportunity to get revenge over Stephen Kenny’s team.
“The Louth derbies are always great occasions and in particular there’s a real buzz around this game, especially when you look at what’s at stake. Dundalk are looking for three points to keep in the hunt for the league, while we are still trying for fifth and to keep our good run going.
“There’s also the FAI Cup next week, both of us are involved and neither of us will want to go into those games on the back of a defeat.
“You could see after Tuesday that the lads were really up for this game, we played well Tuesday night and I thought we were unlucky not to get the win.
“But we trained this morning and there’s a good mood in the camp, the lads are confident and we are expecting a big crowd tomorrow so there should be a good atmosphere, as there always is at these games.
“Potentially it’s the last meeting of the sides this season and obviously the winner will have the bragging rights for the rest of the season and that’s something we want coming back to Drogheda. “
Darren Meenan (John Sullivan 90’)
John Mountney (Francis McCaffrey 61’)
Tiarnán Mulvenna (John Dillon 38’)
Michael Daly (Gary O’Neill 89’)
Cathal Brady (Paul O’Conor 67’)
Stephen O’Donnell 88’
Chris Shields (yellow) 26’
Stephen O’Donnell (yellow) 39’
Darren Meenan (yellow) 67’
Chris Shields (yellow) 90+3’
Chris Shields (red) 90+3’
Michael Daly (yellow) 70’
Gavin Brennan (yellow) 90+1’