Gerard Grimes reports from United Park
Drogheda United and Cabinteely played out a 0-0 draw at United Park on Friday evening with a Paul Fox goal-line clearance and Luca Gratzer save key to keeping the game scoreless.
Stephen McGuinness was the first keeper called into action, against his former club, after just two minutes.
Sean Brennan’s low free kick was blocked in the box but the ball sat up perfectly for Mark Doyle to hit on the turn but he was denied by strong hand by the diving McGuinness.
Cabinteely began to take control of the game, looking to exploit Drogheda’s makeshift defence which saw two centre midfielders, Luke Heeney and captain Jake Hyland, line up at right-back and centre-back respectively.
Cabinteely’s first two moves saw chances cut out by a block and tackle from Hyland before Fox delivered a corner to the back post that Jack Hudson headed narrowly wide.
Stephen Meaney was the creator of Drogheda’s next move, cutting inside from the right wing and passing to Brennan, who played a low ball to Mark Doyle, but his low effort failed to hit the target.
The Boynesiders hit the bar for the first time just after the half-hour mark as Brennan played a free into the feet of Meaney.
The striker lost the ball before winning it back straight away, poking the ball into the path of Doyle who watched his first-time effort rattle back off the bar.
Kevin Knight’s long throws were causing problems for Drogheda as Cabinteely pushed to take the lead before the break.
Firstly, the ball fell kindly for Luke Clucas and he fired narrowly wide of the near post after the ball dropped kindly in a crowded box following a Knight throw in.
The next chance came from Knight’s next throw in, this time falling to Paul Fox who fired over. Fox, who was central to Cabinteely’s best play on the night, was then denied on the stroke of half time by Gratzer.
A good passing move saw Daniel Blackbyrne deliver a ball into the box where Manley flicked on to the unmarked Fox but Gratzer, like McGuinness earlier, got a strong hand to the ball to deny his opponent.
Drogheda thought they had taken the lead five minutes after the break as Lyons played in Doyle who beat McGuinness but was denied by a superb last-ditch clearance by the backtracking Paul Fox.
Cabinteely went close on 63 minutes as referee Alan Carey played advantage despite Shane Barnes and Jake Hyland seemingly being down with head injuries. The ball was played left to the influential Fox who fired just wide of the far post.
Drogheda hit the woodwork for the second time two minutes later as Lyons held the ball up before playing it back to Conor Kane, who hit the upright as he looked to bend an effort into the top corner.
The home side were looking for an opener and Meaney’s low drive forced McGuinness into another good stop low to his right.
Cabinteely should have hit the front with 13 minutes to play as Daniel Blackbyrne’s ball split Drogheda’s defence and, aided by a Luke Heeney slip, substitute Yuta Sasaki saw himself in on goal.
Sasaki looked certain to score as Gratzer dived the wrong way only to somehow get his foot up and kick the ball over the bar to deny a certain goal.
Drogheda had the final chance to win the game as Jordan Adeyemo did brilliantly, beating his man in the box before shooting wide of the near post with Doyle also an option in acres of space on his left.
Cabinteely finished the game with ten men as Jack Hudson was shown a second yellow for a foul on Chris Lyons a minute later in the 94th minute.
The Drogheda players and crowd appealed for a penalty, but referee Carey instead gave a free on the edge of the box.
Brennan fired the free into the wall, Cabinteely cleared and the referee blew for full time with the game ending scoreless despite both sides having brilliant chances to break the deadlock.
Drogheda United: Luca Gratzer; Luke Heeney, Luke McNally, Jake Hyland (C), Conor Kane; Jamie Hollywood, Cian Kavanagh (James Clarke 83), Sean Brennan; Stephen Meaney (Jordan Adeyemo 68), Mark Doyle, Chris Lyons.
Unused Subs: Paul Skinner (GK), Kevin Farragher, Eoin McPhillips, Luke Ring, Ryan O’Shea.
Cabinteely: Stephen McGuinness (C); Daniel Blackbyrne, Jack Hudson, Jack Tuite, Kevin Knight; Keith Dalton (Yuta Sasaki 70), Alex Aspil (Vilius Labutis 70), Luke Clucas, Paul Fox, Rob Manley, Shane Barnes.
Unused Subs: Peter Quinlan (GK), Zak O’Neill, Jonathan Curtis, Christian Lotefa, Conor Keeley.
Booked: Jack Hudson (59, 90+3), Jack Tuite (76).
Red Card: Jack Hudson (90+3).
Referee: Alan Carey
Attendance: 850 (est).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Paul Fox (Cabinteely).