In truth, Sporting deserved a win as they dominated from early on. The only time Dundalk held the upper hand in terms of possession was in the opening ten minutes.
But it was in those opening ten minutes that Fingal’s first goal of the match, and indeed their first ever home goal against Dundalk, came.
After nine minutes Wayne Hatswell had the misfortune of scoring in
his own net. Eamon Zayed’s run into the box and hopefully shot
towards goal, diverted off Hatswell and past Peter Cherrie
in the Dundalk net.
The Ravens used the momentum they got from the opening goal to dominate all over the pitch. The midfield pairing of Shane McFaul and Ronan Finn were instrumental in holding the ball and using it creatively throughout the first half.
Eamon Zayed cut in from the left wing on several occasions into his preferred central role and managed to both create chances and threaten the Dundalk goal himself.
The Lilywhites ceded possession away far too easily in the first half and their route one tactics never really worked out. On several occasions Kuduzovic darted down the wing and put an excellent cross only to find no-one in the box to finish.
Conan Byrne could have doubled the Ravens’ lead on 42 minutes. Ronan Finn dribbled past two defenders out wide before crossing to Kirby who was unlucky to just miss the head of Conan Byrne with his pass.
After half time, the Lilywhites were the team who came out with a fresh attacking vigour. Dundalk set their stall out to attack and forced a series of corners, throw-ins and free-kicks deep in Fingal territory.
Seven minutes after half time, the Lilywhites did equalise through JJ Melligan. Ger O’Brien attempted to relieve the pressure on the Fingal defence by passing the ball back to ‘keeper Darren Quigley.
The pass was too short for the former Ireland under-21 goalkeeper and allowed Melligan in to expertly chip the ball into the net.
The levelled scoreline didn’t last long, as Fingal were the beneficiaries of a very soft penalty decision on 58 minutes.
Gary O’Neill got tangled up with Garry Breen in the Dundalk penalty area and the referee judged it to be a penalty, which was subsequently dispatched by Alan Kirby. Beaten goalkeeper Peter Cherrie didn’t have much time to recuperate after the penalty and managed to pull off an incredible save on his left post to deny Fingal another goal.
Further controversy ensued on 70 minutes with a disputed Dundalk ‘goal’ that never was. Ross Gaynor swung the ball on towards Liam Burns, whose header was pushed onto the crossbar by Darren Quigley.
The ball rebounded down and the Dundalk players claimed that the ball had crossed the line, but referee Tommy Connolly waved away their protests.
After the madness of that Dundalk goal claim, Sporting slowed the tempo of the match down in an attempt to secure the win.
The away side had a chance on 79 minutes when Kuduzovic was nearly let through on goal by Lorcan Fitzgerald, but their attacks down the middle were largely limp and useless.
The final score of 2-1 was probably a fair reflection on the match, but Dundalk will no doubt feel aggrieved at the nature of the wiining goal.
Sporting Fingal: Quigley, O’Brien, Fitzgerald, McFaul, Maher, Browne, Byrne (Crowe ‘88), Finn, O’Neill, Kirby, Zayed.
Subs Not Used: Paisley, James, Gannon, Clarke.
Dundalk: Cherrie, Kelly (J Breen ’80), Hatswell, Miller, G Breen, Burns, Maher, Melligan, Kuduzovic, Fenn, Gaynor.
Subs Not Used: Synott, Murphy, McGuigan, Gregg
Referee: T.Connolly (Dublin)
Extratime Man of the Match: Ronan Finn