by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United are top of the SSE Airtricity league table following a 4-1 thrashing of neighbours Dundalk on the opening night of the new season.
Goals from Eric Foley, Gavin Brennan and a double from Declan O’Brien had Drogheda in cruise control while Pat Hoban pulled a goal back for the away side.
Robbie Horgan, in his first game in charge of United, gave debuts to Paul Andrews at centre back and Daire Doyle in centre midfield while Gary O’Neill partnered O’Brien up front.
As for the lilywhites, Stephen Kenny opted for a 4-3-3 formation with kurtis Byrne and new signing Daryl Horgan playing wide of Hoban.
Dundalk gained the ascendancy early on and they struck the post on five minutes. Stephen O’Donnell released the well-timed run of Hoban and the striker’s attempted cross deflected off Alan McNally onto the frame of the goal.
The Lilywhites were finding space in between the lines of the Drogheda defence and midfield as O’Donnell broke forward yet again but the onrushing Daryl Horgan fired his cross over the bar.
United gradually began to get a foothold in the game and they tested Peter Cherrie in the Dundalk goal on 31 minutes as Foley’s whipped delivery was knocked on by Andrews only for the Scot to deny him.
The Drogs took the lead on 38 minutes with a goal of the season contender. Eric Foley’s 30 yard free-kick sailed into the top corner in spectacular fashion.
A half-time scuffle between the sides resulted in red cards for substitutes Philly Hughes and Simon Kelly but this appeared to have little impact on United as they started the second period in breathtaking form.
Gavin Brennan’s delivery from the left on 47’ was met by the head of Alan McNally who struck the crossbar, the ball was then returned into the box by Michael Daly who found Brennan at the back post and his effort bounced over Cherrie and a covering defender to double Drogheda’s lead.
Five minutes later and the home side were out of sight. A period of concentrated pressure resulted in Daly firing the ball across the six-yard box for the veteran O’Brien to put the home side in dream land.
The visitors were shell-shocked and struggled to gain any momentum but they did manage to pull a goal back on 65’ as substitute Darren Meenan picked out Hoban in the area and he out-jumped the defence to head into the bottom corner.
Drogheda were not finished though as O’Brien’s diving header connected with another excellent set-piece from Brennan to restore Drogheda’s three goal advantage. The striker’s 99th league goal for United.
Aside from an early injury to Michéal Schlingermann, the only other negative note on Drogheda’s victory was a contentious red card for captain Brennan following a tackle from behind on O’Donnell late on.
A deserved victory for United, despite Dundalk’s first half dominance, as Robbie Horgan’s side make the perfect start to 2014.
Drogheda will now take on Crumlin United in the EA Sports Cup on Monday before a top of the table clash against Bohemians at Dalymount next Friday.
by Robert O'Reilly
The Louth derby takes centre stage on the opening weekend of the SSE Airtricity League as Drogheda United face local rivals Dundalk, kick-off 7.45pm at United Park.
New United manager Robbie Horgan has no suspension worries ahead of the game but Paul Crowley, Philly Hughes and Cathal Brady are all carrying knocks and will be assessed before kick-off. Shane Grimes has recovered from a broken hand and will be available for selection.
The Boynesiders finished a disappointing 8th last season under Mick Cooke during which they lost all three of the domestic cup finals while the Lilywhites had their best campaign in more than a decade as they finished runners-up in the league to St. Patrick’s Athletic.
The away side will be without the injured Keith Ward as he continues his recovery from a long-term knee injury while both Richie Towell and Brian Gartland are doubts. Stephen Kenny is expected to give league debuts to both Daryl Horgan and Dave McMillan.
Dundalk defeated Drogheda twice last season in the league but it was United who had the last laugh as they eliminated their neighbours in a controversial FAI Cup semi-final.
The two sides have already met this season as Drogheda retained the Jim Malone Cup for the third successive year on penalties following an even 1-1 draw. Gavin Brennan had given the hosts the lead before Pat Hoban equalized with virtually the last action of the game.
Speaking ahead of his first match in charge, Horgan highlighted the quality of the opposition but maintained that his Drogheda side are a match for anyone on their day.
“I’m really looking forward to it. We have done our homework and I am expecting a very tough game, Dundalk are a strong side who made some very good signings in the off-season. We have already played them this year and while that may not have much importance going into a competitive game, it’s a nice confidence booster for our side knowing that we can beat them. We will be going in all guns firing.
“We have had a good pre-season. There are a couple of tactical details that I want to work on tonight (Thursday) but overall we have to be confident. We will be going into every game this season believing that we can win.
“It’s a fantastic fixture to have so early on in the season. The fans of both sides want bragging rights and there is no better way to get them than beating your local rivals in the first game of the season. It is also a great opportunity for our new players to experience the derby atmosphere. These games are always a big occasion and usually there is only a single goal separating the sides.
“The reality is if we finish better than our 8th position of last season on a lesser budget and a smaller squad, I’d consider that a success. Hopefully we can a get good cup run going and we might be able to surprise a few sides like we did last season.”
1. Michéal Schlingermann (1. David Ryan 12’)
2. Michael Daly
3. Shane Grimes
4. Paul Andrews
5. Alan McNally
7. Cathal Brady (14. Carl Walshe 73’)
10. Gary O’Neill
11. Gavin Brennan ©
18. Daire Doyle
19. Declan O’Brien (15. Austin McCann 90’)
22. Eric Foley
1. Peter Cherrie
2. Sean Gannon (8. John Mountney 77’)
4. Andy Boyle
5. Chris Shields
6. Stephen O’Donnell ©
9. Patrick Hoban
11. Kurtis Byrne (16. Dave McMillan 59’)
12. Ruaidhri Higgins (21. Darren Meenan 55’)
14. Dane Massey
7. Daryl Horgan
17. Richie Towell
6. Paul Crowley
8. Gavan Holohan
9. Phillip Hughes
12. Ciarán McGuigan
15. Mark Griffin
18. Mark Rossiter
19. Simon Kelly
22. Gabriel Sava
Eric Foley 38’
Gavin Brennan 48’
Declan O’Brien 53’, 68’
Patrick Hoban 65’
Phillip Hughes 46’ (red card)
Shane Grimes 68’
Eric Foley 72’
Gavin Brennan 86’ (red card)
Chris Shields 28’
Simon Kelly 46’ (red card)