Dundalk wilted under the gaze of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane as they were defeated, for the first time this season by Bohemians at Oriel Park.
The very fact the national side managerial pair turned up tonight to watch is a sure indication of how well Dundalk have been doing. Undefeated going into this game, with a six point cushion over Cork (and a game in hand), the current champions seemed to be finally making ripples beyond the SSE Aitricity League of Ireland pond.
But Bohemains were not willing to co-operate with this domestic fairy-tale and proved as prickly opponents as the Lilywhites have encountered thus far. In the second minute, Ismahil Akinade, intercepted a sloppy pass across the Dundalk box and fired off the crossbar. Unluckily for Rogers, the ball bounced down, off his back and into the net to put the Gypsies ahead.
Dundalk upped the tempo following this and the Lilywhites were not long waiting for an equaliser. Dane Massey, perhaps a player the Irish management were keeping a tab on for a left back berth, headed home from a Daryl Horgan corner on the ten minute mark.
Dundalk huffed and puffed thereafter and had two notable efforts through midfielders Moutney and Towell but indecision and inaccuracy ensured Dean Delany’s net wasn’t rippled. By half-time Dundalk were petering out and looked as if they were glad to get into the changing room to regroup.
Stephen Kenny must have told his side to go for it in the second half because they swarmed over the visitors from the kick off and the second half was an even more Dundalk dominant half than the first. David McMillian cut into the box and crossed across the goal but Stephen O’Donnell wasn’t able to add to it. Minutes later Bohemians hoofed the ball off the line after Andy Boyle headed goalward from a corner. But it was too much possession and not enough direction at times.
Bohs barely had a look in, until about twenty minutes to go they finally managed to get a sustained period of football in. Akinade barged past the tackles of Andy Boyle and Paddy Barrett and, somehow, managed to keep the ball at his feet only to squander his one-on-one by rolling it at keeper Gary Rogers.
Just after, on the 71st minute, Bohemians won a free out on the left wing almost in line with the Dundalk six yard box and David Mulcahy headed home from a Lorcan Fitzgerald cross to put his side in front. Dundalk hadn’t created an abundance of sitters on the night, but the goal certainly was against the overall ebb of the match.
Bohemians, who seemed content to defend at 1-1, locked down having taken the lead. Their goalkeeper Dean Delany was shown a yellow card for timewasting on the 78th minute. And while the Lilywhites never stopped trying to ping the ball about and create chances, they lacked the ruthless streak displayed in previous games.
Things got much harder for Dundalk with four minutes of normal time left, Paddy Barrett was shown a straight red for a tackle on Akinade in the Lilywhite box. The resulting penalty was saved by Gary Rogers to keep a glimmer of hope alive for the Oriel faithful, but with minutes to go, an equaliser was beyond ten man Dundalk.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Paddy Barrett, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey (Shane Grimes 66); Chris Shields, Richie Towell; John Mountney, Ronan Finn, Daryl Horgan; David McMillan (Kurtis Byrne 86).
Subs Not Used: Gabriel Sava, Brian Gartland, Darren Meenan, Jake Kelly.
Booked: Barrett (30), Barrett (86).
Sent off: Paddy Barrett (86).
Bohemians: Dean Delany; Roberto Lopes Derek Prendergast, Stephen Best (Kealan Dillon 17), Lorcan Fitzgerald; Karl Moore, Keith Buckley, Dave Mulcahy, Robbie Creevy, Adam Evans; Ismahil Akinade (Dean Kelly 92).
Subs Not Used: Lee Stacey Dylan Hayes, Adam Wixted, Jake Hyland, James O’Brien, Dean Kelly.
Booked: Akinade (40), Creevy (53), Delany (78).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Rob Harvey.
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Keith Buckley (Bohemians).