A pulsating game between Dundalk under-19s and St Patrick’s Athletic ended in a 1-1 draw on Saturday afternoon at a wet and humid Oriel Park.
Goals from St Patrick's Athletic's Luke Heeney and an equaliser from Dundalk's Carlton Ubaezuono ensured the points were shared.
Both sides were packed with underage international talent and, following last year’s frantic seven-goal thriller in the same competition, expectations were high for a classic encounter.
Indeed, memories of last season’s goal fest came to mind early on in the game as the young Lilywhites almost took the lead through Jake O’Connor but his close range effort was brilliantly clawed away by Brian Maher.
It took until the half hour mark for another effort of note as Aidan Keena made space for himself in the Dundalk penalty area but his effort was well smothered by former Bohemians netminder Matt Lyons.
It was the keeper’s second save of the game as he had earlier demonstrated excellent handling in the testing conditions to hold onto a long range strike which was destined for his top corner.
The rest of the half saw both defences, with Traynor and Whelan excelling for the home side, dominate and reduce their opponents to very little opportunities within the attacking third.
That was until the last minute of the half when the prolific Jack O'Keefe had an effort from inside the box which, once more, Maher was able to deal with.
The second half begin with a flourish as Carlton Ubaezuono skipped down the left and his cross skimmed the top of the crossbar before, five minutes later, Luke Heeney was denied by a solid stop from Lyons.
Both attackers were to achieve greater success later in the game, however.
Heeney’s 12 yard header from a Kyle Hogan cross ended up in Matt Lyons’ top corner to break the deadlock on 57 minutes.
20 minutes from time, Ubaezuono jinked into the left hand side of the St Pat’s penalty area before unleashing a piledriver which flew past Maher.
The left winger’s equaliser arrived shortly after Ciarán Kelly had cleared a Kinsella effort off the line.
Pats, under the stewardship of Seán O’Connor, had a chance to make it 2-0 prior to Ubaezuono’s strike but Josh Hogan fired into the side netting after good buildup play from Keena and Kyle Hogan.
With the scores level, the away side had further chances to take the lead as William McAdams shot over the bar before Jake O’Connor cleared an effort off the line two minutes later.
However they were indebted to their keeper Maher five minutes from time as, following good work from Ubaezuono, he saved a Jack O’Keefe effort to prevent the home side claiming all three points.
Dundalk Under-19: Matt Lyons; James Woods, Jack Traynor, Eric Whelan, Emmett Hughes; Jake O’Connor, Dean Watters; Stephen Kinsella, Seán O’Hanlon, Carlton Ubaezuono; Jack O’Keefe
Subs not used: Oisín Finn, Gavin Smith, James Rice, Scott Prendergast, Luke Gorham, Kevin Kelly.
St Patrick's Athletic Under-19: Brian Maher; Ciarán Kelly, Lee Rock, Paul Cleary, Luke McNally; Jamie Lennon, William McAdams; Luke Heeney (Sean Quinn 80), Kyle Hogan (George Mukete 85), Josh Hogan (Neill Byrne 85), Aidan Keena.
Subs not used: Jason Grouse, Seán Nolan, Luke Nolan (all unused).
Booked: Kyle Hogan (35), William McAdams (38), Jamie Lennon (41), Luke Heeney (54), Josh Hogan (67), Sean Quinn (79).
Referee: Simon Halpenny.