Dundalk won their first match of the season on Friday night with a 2-1 victory over a spirited UCD side at Oriel Park. Chris Shields and Shane O'Neill gave the home side a two goal advantage just after half- time before Graham Rusk pulled one back after a dubious penalty decision to leave a nervy ending for the home side.
After a quiet opening where both sides struggled to create anything, it was UCD who forced the first real opening of the game. Chris Mulhall got space on the right hand side and his shot flashed across goal.
The best action of an otherwise ordinary first half occurred within a three minute spell just after 20 minutes. Dundalk should have taken the lead. Michael Rafter forced an opening for Stephen McDonnell’s shot was brilliantly tipped onto the crossbar. The rebound was then acrobatically cleared off the line by ‘keeper Mark McGinley.
UCD within moments really should have punished Dundalk. Mulhall once again found space and was clean through on goal but his shot was expertly saved by Peter Cherrie. Rafter then had a good effort well saved by McGinley and a Derek Foran header went poorly wide. After another scrappy period, Cherrie was called into action once again as he pushed away Daniel Ledwith’s free-kick from 25 yards. Shane O’Neill then almost got through on goal but the ball was snatched from him by McGinley.
Dundalk began the second half in lightening quick fashion and it wasn’t long until they broke the deadlock. On 50 minutes the home side won a free-kick just outside the area. Dan Cunningham crossed for captain Chris Shields who headed home past McGinley for Dundalk’s first goal of the season. The goal appeared to lift the Lilywhites and within five minutes they were two in front.
Rafter won the ball on the right and his ball into the box was met by O’Neill who’s header looped over McGinley into the net. The goals appeared to settle the home side however with 25 minutes remaining; the visitors were thrown a lifeline. Cherrie saved brilliantly down to his right before being adjudged to have fouled Graham Rusk. A decision which dismayed all of Oriel Park. Rusk stepped up and duly scored the penalty to reduce the deficit.
This gave UCD a new lease of life and they proceeded to attack Dundalk looking for an equaliser. A few long shots from range and the odd break from Dundalk was the best action of the last 20 minutes as chances were hard to come and they failed to create anything of note.
Dundalk held on bravely to claim their first three points of the season and Seán McCaffrey’s first win as Dundalk manager.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Ben McLaughlin (Cian Byrne '71), Derek Foran, Liam Burns, Nathan Murphy; Paul Walsh, Chris Shields, John Mountney, Stephen McDonnell (Dan Cunningham '46); Michael Rafter, Shane O'Neill (Chris Reilly '65).
Subs not used: Ger Hanley (GK), Robert Waters, Gareth Coughlan, Gary Shanahan.
UCD: Mark McGinley; Daniel Ledwith, David O'Connor, James Kavanagh, Ciarán Nangle; Paul O'Conor (Hugh Douglas '83), Paul Corry, Barry McCabe (Mark Langtry '62), Chris Mulhall; Robbie Benson (Cillian Morrison '62), Graham Rusk.
Subs not used: Ger Barron (GK), Ryan McLaughlin, Dean Clarke, Stephen Doyle.
Bookings: Corry (38), Douglas (89).
Referee: Derek Tomney.
Extratime.ie man of the match: Chris Shields (Dundalk) – On his home debut, Shields led by example and put in a top quality performance.