Premier Division Dundalk salvaged a 2-2 draw with First Division Waterford United at a miserable Oriel Park on Tuesday night.
Dundalk took the lead after 20 minutes when Lorcan Shannon slotted home from six yards. Stephen Maher was dismissed for the hosts before Waterford United grabbed two goals to go in front in the second half through Paul Phelan and Ben Ryan. The Lilywhites battled back and secured parity with 15 minutes to go when Stephen McDonnell struck a wonderful equaliser from 25 yards.
Waterford United started the brighter of the two sides as they forayed forward threatening the nervous Dundalk defence on numerous occasions but failed to create any chances of note in the opening quarter of an hour. It was the hosts, who had been on the back foot for the opening, who almost broke the deadlock when Chris Reilly’s expert corner kick was met by Chris Shields, but he headed just wide.
Then, in the 22nd minute and totally against the run of play, the Lilywhites somehow took the lead. Maher played a brilliant ball to Reilly on the left hand side and he won the foot race against Paul Carey before squaring brilliantly for Lorcan Shannon who made no mistake in slotting past Packie Holden in the Waterford goal.
The Blues responded immediately. From the kick-off Paul Phelan's quickfire shot was well saved by Peter Cherrie in the Dundalk goal. Michael Rafter volleyed just wide for the hosts following Maher’s good lay-off. Peter Higgins then had a brilliant shot saved by Cherrie and Sean Maguire was also denied by the Scotsman but then the tie was turned on its head.
After fouling Higgins, Stephen Maher kicked out at the Waterford midfielder leaving referee Paul McLaughlin with no option but to show him a red card. Dundalk, now down to 10 men, were facing an onslaught from the visitors and Sean Maguire who had been a threat to the home side through the opening half looked like he was leading the charge when he had a shot saved by Cherrie once more.
David Breen headed just wide from a Gary Dempsey free-kick before Maguire had another good shot saved by Cherrie again. Dundalk then had another brilliant chance to score. Mountney’s free-kick found the unmarked Mark Griffin but he miscued a volley and the ball was cleared.
Dundalk survived until half-time at 1-0 despite playing second fiddle for most of the half.
Straight after the re-start, the Blues got the goal that they deserved. A quick throw on the right found Maguire and his wonderful first time cross found Paul Phelan who made no mistake at the back post and finished to the net. Dundalk responded as Griffin had a couple of shots from distance easily gathered by Packie Holden between the sticks for Waterford.
The visitors then went in front on the hour mark. Ben Ryan, only on the pitch a matter of seconds, expertly headed to the net following a wonderful cross from Dylan Mernagh. That appeared to settle the Munster men and they took a firm grip on the game going into the closing stages.
Peter White shot over the bar from 20 yards for the visitors before Rafter shot over at the other end for the hosts. White, again had another effort from distance flash just wide with 15 minutes left on the watch.
Moments later, the tie was level once more as Shannon, on the right wing, crossed into the box and despite being initially cleared, Dundalk won it back and Rafter picked up on the ball. He laid it off to Stephen McDonnell and he struck a wonderful shot from 25 yards which found the bottom corner.
The Blues bounced back immediately and almost re-took the lead. Goal-scorer Phelan produced a wonderful cross and found substitute Daragh Walshe. His shot was excellently saved by Dundalk ‘keeper Cherrie once more. Walshe again had another brilliant shot go just wide for Waterford as did Maguire. Maguire in the closing minutes almost grabbed a goal when his shot went inches wide.
Walshe was again denied by Cherrie in injury-time but it ultimately finished 2 goals a piece and the tie now moves to the RSC on Friday night with both sides feeling they are very much in touching distance of Premier League football for 2013.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Mark O’Brien, Chris Shields ©, Liam Burns,(Paul Whelan 12) Eoghan Osbourne; Lorcan Shannon, Stephen Maher, John Mountney, Chris Reilly (Stephen McDonnell 46); Michael Rafter (Nathan Murphy 85), Mark Griffin.
Subs not used: Conor McDonald, Robbie Gaul, Barry Conlon, William Woods.
Booked: Griffin (36), McDonnell (47).
Sent off: Maher(27).
Waterford United: Packie Holden; Paul Carey, David Breen ©, Craig Burns, Dylan Mernagh; Paul Phelan, Gary Dempsey, Peter White, Peter Higgins (Ben Ryan (59); Sean Maguire, Peter Keegan (Daragh Walshe 46).
Subs not used: Aidan McGrath, Jack Doherty, Jamie Cross, Conor Coad, Robbie Hughes (GK).
Booked: White (52)
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.
Attendance: 1,500 (estimate).
Extratime.ie man of the match: Peter Cherrie (Dundalk).