There was late drama at Turner’s Cross on Friday with a potentially decisive influence on the title race. An 85th minute equaliser from Darren Dennehy saw a massive home crowd of 5,650 go wild before just a minute later Brian Gartland scrambled home a winner for Dundalk.
Dundalk had taken the lead in the 15th minute through Richie Towell after a ricochet put him through 1-on-1 with Mark McNulty. Stephen Kenny’s side dominated proceedings from there on with Cork unable to find any cohesion and Mark O’Sullivan getting no joy in the air against the Dundalk defence.
Referee Padraig Sutton did little to help the game and the home side in particular, constantly blowing up for innocuous fouls and hurting the flow of the game. The biggest decision of the night could have seen Dane Massey sent off for what seemed a clear foul on John O’Flynn but the officials waved play on. It was a match of few clear chances but Dundalk probably deserved the win and it’s hard to see them surrendering a six point lead at the top.
Elsewhere there were goals galore, with the shock of the night coming at Thomond Park as Limerick trounced Shamrock Rovers 4-1. Rory Gaffney, Ian Turner and Stephen Folan scored for the hosts to condemn Trevor Croly’s side to another desperate defeat. Rovers’ poor form has finally cost Croly his job and it’s hard to imagine many Hoops fans are disappointed about that.
Martin Russell couldn’t have hoped for a better result in his first home game in charge and he will hope that form continues next week against Bray Wanderers.
Bray themselves will be delighted to have snatched a point at the death at home to relegation rivals Athlone. Michael Barker curled home from the edge of the box in the 92nd minute to cancel out Alan Byrne’s early opener. Keith Long’s men will be crushed to have let the three points slip through their fingers having had the better of match overall. The draw sees Bray pick up their first point in seven games and keeps them six points ahead of Athlone.
Damien Richardson’s first game in charge of Drogheda saw their recent revival continue with a 4-0 win over UCD. Gavin Brennan gave them the lead before three goals in eight minutes in the second half saw the Drogs pull away. Gary O’Neill scored twice either side of Cathal Brady’s strike to make it three wins in the last four for the Louth club. That run has seen them effectively escape the threat of relegation something that cannot be said about UCD.
The Students are in the play-off position and are just five points off bottom. They have conceded ten in the last two matches and face a vital Dublin derby with Bohs next week.
Free scoring Derry City were the third side to hit four on Friday night with Michael Duffy and Rory Patterson splitting the goals. The pair are on fire with Duffy scoring six in his last three and Patterson with four in the last two. Their goals have fired the Candystripes to four consecutive league wins and a trip to out of sorts Shamrock Rovers will hold little fear for Peter Hutton’s rejuvenated team.
The defeat is a disappointing come down for Bohs who performed so well to beat Cork last week. However, they have a League Cup semi-final to look forward to on Monday against Rovers and they will fancy their chances of coming out on top.
The final game of the night saw St. Pats get past Sligo at Richmond Park thanks to a first half strike from Chris Forrester. The win is a return to form in front of their own fans after their collapse against Legia Warsaw, and they have now won eight home league games on the spin. Sligo had chances through Danny North, who was later dismissed, and new loan signing Eamon Zayed but they failed to find the equaliser and Pats kept their faint title hopes alive. They travel to Cork next week where both sides need to win if they are to put any pressure on Dundalk.
The reality is, that barring a catastrophic collapse, Dundalk will be crowned champions and if they do they will certainly deserve it.
Simon Bracken, Pundit Arena.
Airtricity Premier Division results Aug 1:
Bray Wanderers 1-1 Athlone Town
Derry City 4-0 Bohemians
Drogheda United 4-0 UCD
Limerick 4-1 Shamrock Rovers
St. Pats 1-0 Sligo Rovers
Cork City 1-2 Dundalk