Johnny Connolly saved a late penalty as leaders Dundalk Youths survived a huge scare to overcome Leicester Celtic 2-1 thanks to a Conor McDonald spot-kick and Seanie Crosbie strike at Loreto Park on Sunday afternoon, leaving the young Lilywhites in a strong position going into the final four games of the DDSL U18 Super League season.
McDonald and Crosbie netted within a seven-minute spell before the break, but Leicester battled back and reduced the deficit on 80 minutes before Connolly produced heroics, the hosts firing over the rebound.
Alan Browne’s side went into the game having won three times in the previous ten days, a period in which they scored 16 goals. And they set about adding to that impressive tally just ten minutes in here, as McDonald and Daniel Hand combined to set up Ryan Duffy who saw his shot saved.
On the quarter-hour, a superb ball from Scott Craven split the defence, with Hand latching onto it and attempting a chip but the ‘keeper did well to deny him.
As they continued to dominate, Dundalk went close again on 25 minutes. A well-worked free-kick saw Roy Kierans find Duffy who slipped in McDonald, whose shot was tipped around the post.
However, McDonald did find the net ten minutes later, as he added to the double that he scored against Shelbourne in a 6-0 rout three days earlier.
Stephen Kilcoyne fed Hand, the Cavan native being brought down in the box after taking on a defender, with ‘Chippy’ stepping up and coolly converting.
And before the break, Dundalk deservedly doubled their advantage. This time, Duffy found Crosbie on the edge of the area, and the Wexford-born midfielder fired to the ‘keeper’s bottom right-hand corner.
Following the resumption, the visitors looked to kill off the game and after picking up Duffy’s pass, Hand went close but saw his shot well saved.
On 57 minutes, in a rare attack, Leicester threatened, with a cross from the right laid off to the edge of the box, the resulting shot whistling narrowly wide of Connolly’s post.
With Dundalk looking comfortable, they were opened up ten minutes from time when a 25-yard free-kick was blocked by the wall but fell kindly for the hosts who volleyed to the top corner.
The young Lilywhites looked to quickly restore their two-goal cushion. McDonald did well, taking on the full-back before cutting in and laying off to substitute Kurt Murphy whose blocked shot fell to Craven who fired over from eight-yards.
And that almost proved costly as, on 85 minutes, Leicester were awarded a penalty, but Connolly redeemed himself as he got down to save before the hosts skied the rebound.
Dundalk now have four games remaining, beginning with the visit of UCD/Mount Merrion to Oriel Park next Sunday morning (kick-off 11am). Also left to play are Bohemians (away) and Saint Kevin’s Boys (home and away).
DUNDALK YOUTHS: Johnny Connolly, Jude Carroll, Stephen Kilcoyne, Aidan Sheehy, Brian Bird, Scott Craven, Roy Kierans (Michael Gray 55), Conor McDonald, Seanie Crosbie, Ryan Duffy (Kevin Loughran 60), Daniel Hand (Kurt Murphy 58).
Conor McDonald and Ryan Duffy scored doubles and Michael Gray and Scott Craven added further goals as Dundalk Youths recorded a facile 6-0 win over Shelbourne in the DDSL U18 Super League at Oriel Park on Thursday evening.