by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United retained the Jim Malone Cup for the third successive season as they defeated Dundalk on penalties following a competitive 1-1 draw at Hunky Dorys Park. Gavin Brennan fired the hosts ahead on 21 minutes and despite Dundalk drawing level deep in stoppage time through substitute Patrick Hoban, it was United who prevailed 5-4 in the shootout.
Drogs manager Robbie Horgan gave home debuts to Paul Andrews and Daire Doyle while Eric Foley captained the side. As for the visitors, new signing Dave McMillan was chosen to lead the line for the Lilywhites with former St. Patrick’s Athletic defender Sean Gannon starting at right-back.
Heavy rainfall before kick-off made conditions difficult for both sides and strong challenges early on from Shane Grimes and Chris Shields proved that this encounter was more than just a pre-season friendly. The first effort on target came on 18 minutes as Darren Meenan delivered a dangerous ball into the box which was only partially cleared as far as John Mountney but the midfielder’s drilled effort was well held by Drogheda United shot stopper Micheál Schlingermann.
Schlingermann was called upon again seconds later as Kurtis Byrne’s cross caused havoc for the Drogheda defence and Stephen O’Donnell’s follow up shot was saved. United took the lead against the run of play on 21 minutes when Brennan broke the offside trap and the winger quickly composed himself as he confidently slotted past Dundalk goalkeeper Peter Cherrie on his weaker right foot.
Dundalk came close to levelling affairs shortly before half time as McMillan evaded the challenge of Andrews but the striker was unable to keep his effort on target as he bore down on goal. The Lilywhites started the second half with greater impetus and only a last ditch tackle from Alan McNally denied Byrne a clear shot on goal and moments later the striker sent a long range effort narrowly wide.
United squandered two excellent chances to double their lead as the game neared its conclusion, Declan O’Brien will feel he should have done better as the veteran shot straight at Cherrie from 12 yards. The home side were then denied by the frame of the goal as Brennan’s strike was diverted out of play by the crossbar much to the relief of the large travelling away support.
The late introduction of Mark Griffin and Hoban switched the momentum of the game as Dundalk finally applied some pressure on the Drogheda goal and the equaliser arrived when Griffin sent an in-swinging ball to Hoban who climbed highest in the air to head into the top corner with virtually the final kick of the game.
It was Schlingermann who emerged as the hero for the home side in the shootout as he saved Daryl Horgan’s sudden death spot kick as Drogheda triumphed 5-4 on penalties. With little between the sides, this pre-season fixture has only whetted the appetite for the Airtricity league opener between the rivals on the 7th of March at Hunky Dorys Park.
16. Micheál Schlingermann
2. Michael Daly
3. Shane Grimes (12. Ciaran McGuigan 45’)
4. Paul Andrews
5. Alan McNally
18. Daire Doyle (6. Paul Crowley 55’)
22. Eric Foley ©(15. Austin McCann 85’)
7. Cathal Brady (14. Carl Walshe 75’)
10. Gary O’Neill
11. Gavin Brennan
19. Declan O’Brien (9. Phillip Hughes 86’)
1. Peter Cherrie
2. Sean Gannon (19. Simon Kelly 75’)
14. Dane Massey
18. Mark Rossiter
3. Brian Gartland
5. Chris Shields (17. Richie Towell 66’)
6. Stephen O’Donnell ©
8. John Mountney (12. Ruaidhri Higgins 66’)
21. Darren Meenan (9. Patrick Hoban 66’)
11. Kurtis Byrne (7. Daryl Horgan 66’)
16. Dave McMillan (15. Mark Griffin 75’)
40. Dylan Connolly
22. Gabriel Sava
Gavin Brennan 21’
Patrick Hoban 90+3’