Niall Newberry reports from Finn Park
Dundalk are still awaiting their first win in this season's SSE Airtricity League Premier Division after being held to another 1-1 draw, this time against Finn Harps on Friday night in Ballybofey.
Harps took a shock lead that was scarcely deserved just before half-time but Keith Cowan's header was cancelled out by an almost identical goal from Brian Gartland with 20 minutes left on the clock.
The home side handed a debut to Sean Boyd – on loan from Shamrock Rovers – while Cowan along with Mark Coyle also came into the team having not played in last week's 1-0 defeat at Bohemians.
Dundalk made two enforced changes with Robbie Benson and Patrick McEleney – both forced off with injury in last week's draw with Sligo Rovers – being replaced by Dean Jarvis and Sean Murray.
Harps, who had lost in every one of their previous seven meetings with the Lilywhites, created the game’s first chance when left-back Daniel O’Reilly flashed a header wide after just three minutes.
The visitors largely dominated proceedings after that early scare and Michael Duffy – last year’s PFAI Player of the Year – saw his wonderful volleyed effort from outside the area saved by Peter Burke.
Vinny Perth’s side had the better of the possession without much joy after that as Harps defended excellently as Dean Jarvis – playing in central-midfield – shot straight at the Finn Harps goalkeeper.
Last season’s top scorer in the SSE Airtricity League with 29 goals, Patrick Hoban almost broke the deadlock with a sensational bicycle-kick attempt from outside the box that went narrowly wide.
Dundalk’s left-back Dane Massey then crashed a free-kick off the crossbar just past the half-hour mark, leaving Perth wondering if, like last week, his side would rue so many missed opportunities.
The unthinkable happened four minutes before the break when the evergreen Raffaele Cretaro floated in a lovely corner from the left that was powered home by the head of defender Cowan.
That goal to give Harps a shock lead was their first against Dundalk since Stephen Parkhouse scored to condemn the Lilywhites to another season of First Division football in 2007. How times have changed.
Ollie Horgan's side, still buoyed by that goal from Cowan, had the first chance of the second half when Cretaro forced an unconvincing save from Gary Rogers after some good work by Nathan Boyle.
The newly-promoted side continued to frustrate Dundalk, who despite controlling the play, lacked any real conviction in front of goal as they struggled to break down the Donegal side’s resilience.
Their resistance was finally broken with 20 minutes remaining however, when Duffy’s corner from the right was excellently headed home by captain Gartland to get Dundalk on level terms.
Harps could very well have regained their lead when substitute Niall McGinley found himself through on goal but was stopped in his tracks by an outstanding tackle from defender Sean Hoare.
Dundalk almost won it late on when Duffy's cross was headed on by Gartland, whose effort was spilled by Burke but Murray couldn't finish despite that error from the young Harps goalkeeper.
Neither side could find a winner as the match finished a draw and tempers flared after the full-time whistle with Harps assistant manager Paul Hegarty at the centre of a coming together in the centre circle.
Finn Harps: Peter Burke; Jacob Borg, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd, Daniel O’Reilly; John Kavanagh, Gareth Harkin, Mark Coyle, Raffaele Cretaro (Niall McGinley 75); Nathan Boyle (Caolan McAleer 87), Sean Boyd (Mikey Place 67).
Subs not used: Ciaran Gallagher, Colm Deasy, Tony McNamee, Liam Walsh.
Booked: Keith Cowan (49), Mark Coyle (58), Niall McGinley (90+2).
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Sean Hoare, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Dean Jarvis (Jordan Flores 77); John Mountney (Daniel Kelly 65), Sean Murray (Cameron Dummigan 85), Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban.
Subs not used: Aaron McCarey, Stephen Folan, Daniel Cleary, Georgie Kelly.
Booked: Dane Massey (45+1).
Referee: Robert Rogers.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Keith Cowan (Finn Harps).
Goal scorer Keith Cowan 1-0 Harps pic.twitter.com/m26lrEiap2— Finn Harps FC (@FinnHarpsFC) February 22, 2019