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Friday 9 December 2016

Hoops make Oriel point

Dundalk’s Brian Gartland celebrates his equaliser in the Premier Division draw with Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Dundalk’s Brian Gartland celebrates his equaliser in the Premier Division draw with Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

On a night when the Lilywhites were a touch off-colour against the men in black, Dundalk learned that the retention of their league title will not be as smooth as their supporters will have hoped.

Dundalk had enjoyed a 100% record - five games, five wins - from their league battles with Dublin clubs this season but this 1-1 draw at home to Shamrock Rovers could prove costly, the challenge for the champions now to get back to winning ways when they face Derry City at home on Friday night.

Given that they had to come from behind, having conceded a goal which keeper Gary Rogers will not want to see again, this could - at a stretch - be seen as a point gained for Stephen Kenny's men.

Yet it could even have been all three points for the champions, only for Rovers keeper Barry Murphy to make two stunning saves in the final stages, one brilliant stop deep into the eight - yes, eight - minutes of added time in a very keenly-contested affair which saw Rovers boss Stephen Bradley sent to the stands.

But the one point has to do, and while Dundalk have a five-point lead over Cork City, the second-placed Munster side will look at their game in hand on Dundalk, add that to the remaining clash between the top two, and wonder if Cork can indeed wrestle the title from Oriel Park.

The way the game started, few would have predicted that Rovers would be ahead at the half-time break. Dundalk had laid siege to the Hoops from early on, a series of scoring opportunities suggesting it was only a matter of time before they took the lead. David McMillan and Daryl Horgan had decent chances for Stephen Kenny's side but were unable to score.

Rovers grew into the game, Shaw forcing a save from Rogers on 28 minutes after a good ball in from Shane Hanney.

On 33 minutes the away side took the lead, Shaw punishing that awful error from Rogers after he'd been put under pressure with that back pass from Andy Boyle.

It took Dundalk untiil the 59th minute to draw level, Brian Gartland heading home his fourth league goal of the season from a free by Patrick McEleney.

With the home fans in the crowd of 2,490 boosted by that leveller, Dundalk pressed hard for the goal they needed to win and keep Cork at bay, but either their finishing was off-target, or else they found Hoops keeper Murphy at the top of his game.

Murphy saved from a superb Horgan shot in the last minute of normal time while he managed to keep out an almost certain goal from Dean Shiels in added time.

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