Jason Byrne denied Drogheda United all three points in a full-blooded Louth derby at Hunky Dorys Park on Friday night. The returning striker’s deft lob 14 minutes from time restored parity after Dundalk had taken a 13th minute lead, only to then go behind early in the second half.
Form suggested there wouldn’t be much between the sides but Dundalk exploded into life from the off. Ian Foster opted for a 4-3-3 formation and his daring was quickly rewarded. Before Mark Griffin’s goal, Mark Quigley looked the most dangerous threat. Deployed on the left side of the three man attack, he was central to most of the visitor’s good play early on.
He whipped a dangerous ball into the box after six minutes and if there had been anyone in white at the back post, it surely would have been the opener. Moments before that Griffin raced onto a long ball and fired a yard wide as Dundalk looked to expose their Louth rivals at every opportunity.
Indeed, the goal was coming and when Daniel Kearns danced down the right wing and crossed for Griffin there was always going to be only one outcome and the striker fired home his ninth of the season.
The Lilywhites continued their impetus after the goal. Steven Trimble was called into action only two minutes later to claw away a dangerous ball in by makeshift left back Ross Gaynor. They were dangerous on the right too and looked to have a genuine penalty claim when Daniel Kearns’ shot seemed to strike Dave Rogers on the arm after 23 minutes. Richie winters waved away protestations.
But Mick Cooke’s men have shown great resilience in recent times and began to find their feet. Tiarnán Mulvenna, arguably the best recruit for any side in the league this season, was instrumental in Drogheda finding their way back into the tie. The goal didn’t arrive until just before the break but by that stage Drogheda should have been well ahead with Corcoran, Brennan and Alan McNally all going close - the latter crashing a header off the crossbar.
On 42 minutes, Mulvenna dummied just inside the Dundalk half, allowing the ball to roll into the path of Corcoran. The ball was quickly worked wide to Philip Hand who crossed low for Mulvenna to fire into the top corner; 1-1, and game on.
The goal lifted the hosts who bossed long phases of the game after the restart. Substitute Mark O’Brien, who replaced the injured Peter McMahon in the first half, wasn’t long in exposing Ross Gaynor’s defensive deficiencies. As O’Brien burst into the box, Gaynor pulled him down and the ageless Dave Rogers made no mistake from the spot.
The goal, or perhaps the thought of their local rivals recording back-to-back victories over them, proved as a wake up call for Dundalk who lacked creativity and spark after their opening salvo. As the half developed they attempted to involve Daniel Kearns more down the right but for too long the Lilywhites failed to seriously test Steven Trimble.
That was until Jason Byrne, largely anonymous for the much of the game, pounced to level affairs. The game played out at hectic pace for the closing 15 minutes and seven players would finish with their names in the book. But there was no nastiness to the tie and in the end the draw was probably the fairest result.
Drogheda United: Steven Trimble; Stephen Quigley, Alan McNally, Dave Rogers, Philip Hand; Brian Gannon, Lee Lynch, Peter McMahon (Mark O’Brien, 37), Gavin Brennan; Tiarnán Mulvenna, Dinny Corcoran.
Subs not used: Robert Duggan, Cillian Thompson, Robbie Gaul, Jordan White, Shane Dolan, Keith Murray.
Booked: Mulvenna (17), M O’Brien (45), G Brennan (85).
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Simon Madden, Dean Bennett, Carl McHugh, Ross Gaynor; Daniel Kearns, Greg Bolger, Keith Ward (Stephen Maher, 62); Mark Quigley, Mark Griffin, Jason Byrne (Johnny Breen, 78).
Subs not used: Paul Murphy, Matt Foley.
Booked: Ward (36), Gaynor (45), Bennett (52), M Quigley (88).
Referee: Richie Winter.
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Tiarnán Mulvenna.