SUBSTITUTE Kurtis Byrne emerged from the bench to fire Dundalk past Shelbourne in the first round of the EA Sports Cup at Oriel Park last night.
The young striker – a son of former Celtic star Paul Byrne – got the only goal in the 76th minute. It was the result of a well worked move with the former Ross County man exchanging passes with Vinny Faherty before receiving the ball back to toe poke it past Niall Bourdon from close range.
Lilywhites boss Stephen Kenny made six changes to the side which drew 0-0 with Shamrock Rovers three nights earlier with Tiarnan Mulvenna, Stephen McDonnell, Eoghan Osborne, John Mountney, Vinny Faherty and Darren Meenan all given places in the starting XI.
The home side had the best of a lacklustre first-half and they thought they had broken the deadlock after 15 minutes when Tiarnan Mulvenna tucked away Vinny Faherty’s looping effort only for the referee’s assistant to rule it out for offside.
Those who braved the bitterly cold weather to take in the match were almost left with a warm glow on the half hour mark. Dundalk midfielder Richie Towell spotted Shels keeper Niall Bourdon off his line from almost 50-yards out but the net-minder did just enough to tip Towell’s audacious effort onto his crossbar.
The visitors offered little going forward in the opening half with a wayward drive from Sean Brennan the closest they came to troubling Peter Cherrie.
At the other end, Bourdon did well again just before the break, making two fantastic saves to deny Mulvenna and then Stephen McDonnell to ensure the sides went in scoreless at half-time.
Shels improved after the break and Cherrie had to get his hand to a Mark Leech header that looked like it was sneaking in just past the hour. At the other end, Bourdon then made another great block to deny Meenan from close range after the ball had deflected kindly into the winger’s path.
Chances continued to fall at either end as both sides – who meet at Tolka Park in a league match this Friday - appeared keen to avoid extra time. Philly Hughes fired wide just minutes after coming on as a sub before his counterpart Byrne did break the deadlock soon after.
Byrne thought he had doubled his tally three minutes later only to see Graham Gartland stop his hooked effort from crossing the line before Cherrie denied the Shels defender from forcing extra-time with a smart save late on.
DUNDALK: Peter Cherrie; John Mountney, John Sullivan, Andy Boyle, Eoghan Osborne; Stephen McDonnell, Richie Towell, Keith Ward (John Dillon 54); Tiarnan Mulvenna (Kurtis Byrne 61), Vinny Faherty, Darren Meenan (Mark Rossiter 78). Unused subs: Patrick Hoban, Mark Rossiter, Sami Osobe, Stephen O’Donnell, Aaron Shanahan (GK).
SHELBOURNE: Niall Bourdon; Rob Cornwall, Brian Shortall, Graham Gartland, Jack Memery (Ian Ryan 47); Adam Hanlon, Sean Brennan (Craig Mooney 82), Paul Crowley, Robert Bayly, Alex Prizeman (Philly Hughes 63); Mark Leech. Unused subs: Stephen Hurley, Eoin Comerford, Adam O’Connor,, Darren Tinnelly.
REFEREE: Paul Tuite.