Reigning champions Dundalk were unable to restart their campaign with three points on Friday night as a rigid and workmanlike St Patrick’s Athletic held them to a 1-1 draw at Oriel Park.
Prior to kick-off both sets of players and coaching staff took part in a minutes silence to remember the late Harry Taffe , a Dundalk fan and contributor to the club who sadly passed away.
This minutes silence was followed by both sets of players and coaching staff taking a knee on the pitch in support of the protests for racial and social injustice which have been prevalent worldwide since sport has returned.
The game started at a frantic pace with both sides trying to impose their style on the other.
Dundalk tried to take control of the game and settle into their possession based football early on but Stephen O’Donnell’s men wouldn’t allow it, with The Saints pressing high up the pitch at pace right from the off.
The press from St Patrick’s Athletic was working and the Lilywhites couldn’t get into their fluid best.
The first real chance of the game fell to Jordan Gibson in the 20th minute mark when he got goal side of Andy Boyle after a hopeful punt forward. Gibson, who looked lively all night, got a good strike away from about 20 yards out.
Three minutes later Dundalk took the lead. Luke McNally took a poor first touch on the edge of his own box after a stray ball from Rory Feely. Stefan Colovic was quick to pounce and he played a ball across the six yard box into the open path of Patrick Hoban, who drilled home for his sixth goal of the season.
The game may have started slowly but the Dundalk goal brought it to life with The Saints responding with a goal of their own straight from the tip off one minute later.
Good build up play from Dan Ward released Shane Griffin down Dundalk’s left hand side and he put in a wonderful cross that was met by Robbie Benson to equalise against his former club and level the game up.
The goal seemed to spur O’Donnell’s men on. A lapse in concentration at the back for Dundalk left Dan Ward baring down on Gary Rogers in goal but he was mightily unlucky as his left footed shot cannoned off the post after 34 minutes.
Colovic was growing into the game and in the 39th minute he played a lovely ball over the top into the path of the onrushing Michael Duffy who hit it first time on the volley but just couldn’t control his effort and it scuffed past the left hand post.
St Pat’s started the second half with the intent shown in the first, and almost took the lead through Feely, when the defender latched onto the end of a Jamie Lennon corner. His header was cleared off the line and Dundalk could breathe a sigh of relief not for the first time in the game.
While the away side were the better team for most of the start of the second half, it was Dundalk who almost took the lead through their captain. Chris Shields’ curling effort in the 57th minute almost beat Brandan Clarke before hitting the top of the net.
Dundalk were beginning to up the tempo now and Greg Sloggett almost headed the home side in front in the 63rd minute as he attacked a beautifully timed free kick into the St Pats box but he couldn’t direct his header on target as another chance went begging.
Both teams pushed for a winner in the second half and while Dundalk had the majority of the ball, The Saints worked incredibly hard and defended superbly.
They held the champions at bay and restricted them to long range efforts and half chances while having probably as many chances themselves to win it late on.
Five minutes of additional time wasn’t enough to separate the sides and the game ended with the sides sharing the points.
Vinny Perth will have been a little bit disappointed his side weren’t able to push on in their first game back and grab a winner but the visitors will be buoyant after deservedly clinching a point away from home.
They will look to kick on from this result as they welcome Derry City to Richmond Park on Monday, while Dundalk will have to bounce back to remain on the tails of leaders Shamrock Rovers when they travel to Dalymount Park next week.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers ; Dane Massey , Sean Gannon , Daniel Cleary , Andy Boyle ; Greg Sloggett (John Mountney 85) , Jordan Flores (Patrick McEleney 53) , Michael Duffy (Nathan Oduwa 85) , Stefan Colovic (Daniel Kelly 53) ; Patrick Hoban .
Subs not used: Nathan Oduwa, John Mountney, David McMillan, Patrick McEleney, Aaron McCarey, Daniel Kelly, Brian Gartland.
Booked: Daniel Cleary (71), David McMillan (94).
St. Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke ; David Titov , Luke McNally , Rory Feely , Lee Desmond ; Dan Ward , Jamie Lennon , Shane Griffin , Jordan Gibson , Robbie Benson ;
Subs not used: Martin Rennie, Ben McCormack, Jason McClelland, Darragh Markey, Conor Kearns, Darragh Burns, Ian Bermingham.
Booked: Jamie Lennon (49), Rory Feely (66).
Referee: Robert Harvey
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Dan Ward (St Patrick’s Athletic)