Odhrán Crumley reports from Oriel Park
Both sides will have to share the spoils as Derry City and Dundalk played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Oriel Park.
The hosts hit the front after only six minutes through Robbie Benson.
Aaron McEneff levelled from the spot three minutes before half time only for Michael Duffy to put the home team 2-1 up at the break.
But the drama didn’t end there as one minute after the break Eoin Toal equalised for the Candystripes.
Dundalk started the game brightest, a slick move saw Jamie McGrath set John Mountney away down the left, before his cross eventually fell into the hands of Gerard Doherty after a period of confusion.
Seconds later Mountney broke down the right his cross was then directed goal wards by Robbie Benson into the bottom right corner of the net.
In truth, the strike gave the hosts a deserved lead and a dream start to the game.
Stephen Kenny’s men continued to press as Jamie McGrath disposed Rory Hale in the middle of the park before playing Patrick Hoban in.
But Gerard Doherty emerged sharply off of his line to parry Hoban’s effort for a corner which was headed over the bar.
Derry had their first chance of the game as Jamie McDonagh played John Cofie in on goal. However Cofie miscued the effort and it was easily gathered down low by Gary Rogers, his first action of the night.
It was the hosts who continued to impress Dane Massey sending a cross deep into the area which was met by the head of Mountney.
However the header was straight at Doherty in the Derry goals and was flicked away from danger.
The Candystripes had a brighter spell midway through the first half culminating in an Aaron McEneff free which was relatively easily gathered by Rogers.
In the 41st minute of the game Derry were awarded a penalty as Daniel Cleary fouled McEneff.
McEneff stepped up to take the spot kick and sent Rogers the wrong way slotting the ball into the bottom right corner of the net, to make it 1-1.
Three minutes later in the 45th minute of the game Dundalk regained the lead Michael Duffy fired Sean Gannon’s cross into the back of net.
One minute after the restart Derry would have their equaliser winning a free which was sent into the area by McEneff. The original header from Ronan Curtis was saved by Rogers down low but Eoin Toal was in the right place at the right time to send the rebound into the net.
Just beyond the hour mark Dundalk appeared to have been awarded a penalty after Darren Cole challenged Jamie McGrath. Ben Connolly, the referee appeared to point to the spot but his actions were misconstrued as a goal kick was awarded, much to the displeasure of the lilywhite faithful.
Kenny Shiels men grew into the game as they began to get into their footballing rhythm as Peers headed over from a McEneff free.
Michael Duffy struggled to get himself involved for much of the second half but with ten to play he cut in from the left and sent a rasping right-footed effort towards the top corner of the net. Unfortunately, for the hosts the ball flew to the right and wide.
From the very next attack McEneff chipped in a ball from the left which after a period of pinball was sent towards the goal hitting the crossbar and going over from Nathan Boyle.
Derry City were reduced to ten in the 87th minute of the game as Gavin Peers saw red for a second bookable offence.
Stephen Kenny’s men pushed for a winner in the final minutes with their numerical advantage but it was to no avail as the sound of Ben Connolly’s goal brought the game to an end confirming a 2-2 draw.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers, Sean Gannon, Sean Hoare, Stephen O’Donnell (Chris Shields 77), Michael Duffy, John Mountney (Dylan Connolly 71), Patrick Hoban (Marco Tagbajumi 78), Jamie McGrath, Dane Massey, Robbie Benson, Daniel Cleary.
Subs not Used: Gabriel Sava, Chris Shields, Stephen Folan, Dylan Connolly, Ronan Murray, Marco Tagbajumi, Dean Jarvis.
Yellow Cards: Stephen O’Donnell (49)
Red Cards: None
Derry City: Gerard Doherty, Jack Doyle, Eoin Toal, Gavin Peers, Darren Cole, Nicky Low, Ronan Curtis, Aaron McEneff, Rory Hale, Jamie McDonagh, John Cofie (Nathan Boyle 72).
Subs not Used: Eric Grimes, Scott Whiteside, Ben Doherty, Niall Logue, Cathal Farren, Nathan Boyle, Jamie McIntyre.
Yellow Cards: Gavin Peers (14), Jamie McDonagh (39), Gerard Doherty (49), Jack Doyle (52)
Red Cards: None
Referee: Ben Connolly
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Aaron McEneff (Derry City)