On their return to the Setanta Cup following a three year absence, Dundalk went down 3-2 to Coleraine in the first leg of their quarter-final tie in what was a highly entertaining game at Oriel Park.
The Lilywhites went in front after 17 minutes when Daryl Horgan finished to the net. But a double from David McDaid either side of half-time gave Coleraine the lead and Ruairi Harkin gave them a two goal cushion just before the hour mark. David McMillan grabbed Dundalk’s second with half an hour remaining.
It was Dundalk who started the brightest and almost took the lead after three minutes when Richie Towell released Daryl Horgan but his shot was deflected wide from 12 yards.
Horgan again came close with an effort from just inside the box when Patrick Hoban laid the ball off to his fellow Galway man but his rising shot was straight at Eugene Ferry.
It wasn’t long until the Lilywhites did make the breakthrough when Towell broke forward and found Stephen O’Donnell who wonderfully backheeled to Horgan in the box and he calmly finished past Ferry to the net.
O’Donnell himself then had an effort blocked before Mark Rossiter had a cross cum shot parried away by former Derry City ‘keeper Ferry.
Coleraine, though, began to grow into the game and, after a shot by Gary Browne went over the bar, they became more confident and duly levelled matters after 33 minutes. A loose ball wasn’t properly cleared by the Dundalk defence and David McDaid controlled ball before unleashing a thunderous volley which crashed off the crossbar and into the net.
Coleraine could have had a second before half-time but Ruairi Harkin shot well wide.
In the second half the visitors went in front almost immediately. A quick counter saw the ball fall to Harkin and his outstanding cross found McDaid who duly finished to the net.
Dundalk were struggling to get back into their rhythm and, stunned by the fightback of the Irish League side, they fell 3-1 behind on 57 minutes. Another break on the right from Browne and his cross this time found Harkin who bundled the ball past Peter Cherrie in the Dundalk goal.
Moments later the hosts grabbed a lifeline and pulled a goal back. Horgan won a corner on the right which he took himself, floating into the six yard area where David McMillan rose highest to score.
In what was an end-to-end game, Coleraine will feel that they should have had a penalty on 63 minutes when a Harkin ball, searching for McDaid, looked to have eluded the striker. But he beat the on rushing Cherrie to the ball and it appeared that the goalkeeper caught the former Derry City star. However, referee Paul McLaughlin waved away the protests from the visitors.
Dundalk then had a wonderful opportunity to draw level when Towell’s free-kick found the unmarked Andy Boyle who headed back across goal to Hoban and he attempted to head it to the net. However, Ferry somehow managed to claw the ball away from six yards.
Dundalk dominated the closing stages and Towell blasted over from the edge of the box. The Dundalk playmaker was beginning to see a lot more of the ball and, as Dundalk went all out on the attack in search of an equaliser, he found the unmarked Hoban in the box. Hoban fired the ball across goal but Paul Owens cleared the ball away for the Bannsiders.
Hoban had another opportunity moments later, however , when Owens once again got a block in to deny the striker. Despite a late onslaught from the Lilywhites, which included another close effort from Hoban, Coleraine held out for a 3-2 lead to take back to the Showgrounds.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Mark Rossiter, Andy Boyle, Simon Kelly (John Mountney 85), Dane Massey; Stephen O’Donnell (c), Ruaidhri Higgins (Darren Meenan 78); Daryl Horgan (Kurtis Byrne 66), Richie Towell, David McMillan; Patrick Hoban.
Substitutes not used: Chris Shields, Mark Griffin, Ciaran O’Connor, Gabriel Sava (GK).
Booked: Massey (12).
Coleraine: Eugene Ferry; John Watt, Steven Douglas, Aaron Canning, Joe McNeil; Ruairi Harkin, Stephen Lowry, Michael Hegarty Paul Owens (Eoin Bradley 86); Gary Browne (Gareth Tommons 61), David McDaid.
Substitutes not used: Shane Jennings, Lee Lindsay, Adam Mullan, Brad Surgernor, Gregg Shannon.
Booked: McNeil (72)
Referee: Paul McLaughlin
Attendance: 1,500 (estimate)
Extratime.ie man of the match: David McDaid (Coleraine)