TORRENTIAL rain failed to dampen the atmosphere at Oriel Park on Saturday as a healthy crowd turned out to see Dundalk’s 2002 FAI Cup wining team take on the Celtic Legends.
Those present were treated to an entertaining afternoon of football with the highlight coming from the boot of former Dutch international Pierre Van Hooijdonk who scored a sublime effort to put Parkhead heroes team one goal ahead in the first-half.
The Hoops deployed a three pronged Dutch attack in the form of Bobby Petta, Regi Blinker and Van Hooijdonk, the latter receiving a great reception from the crowd.
The 43-year-old striker almost gave them something to cheer as early as the 6th minute when he tried his luck with an audacious free-kick from the half-way line which just went off target.
Dundalk, with cup final goalscoring hero Garry Haylock partnering Martin Reilly in attack, went close in the 15th minute when Reilly saw an effort saved by Allen McKnight before Alan Stubbs cleared the loose ball off the line.
The Hoops threatened again when Petta sent in a cross from the left but Van Hooijdonk steered his header wide. Williams then had to get down to his right to turn Tommy Johnson’s drive around the post.
Van Hooijdonk looked as though he was still in peak condition and the big Dutchman got the only goal of an entertaining first-half when he chipped Williams with a sublime effort from 25-yards in the 25th minute.
Fellow Dutchman Regi Blinker should have doubled the lead soon after but Williams did well to deny him on two occasions before Reilly cracked the from 25-yards with a blockbuster that had McKnight beaten.
The second-half saw a raft of substitutes introduced with Haylock receiving a great ovation when he went off. Another former Dundalk legend, Tom McNulty, also made an appearance.
Dundalk, with David Hoey rolling back the years in midfield, were very much still in at this stage and Donal Broughan flashed a free-kick just wide of the post.
For Celtic, Tommy Johnson saw a harmless effort easily held by Williams and then Blinker saw a goal ruled out for offside.
Dundalk’s best chance of an equaliser came in the 63rd minute when Reilly burst through the Hoops back four but just as he was about to pull the trigger Alan Stubbs produced a fantastic last ditch tackle.
The visitors eventually scored a second when Brian O’Neil smashed an effort past Williams from close range in the 79th minute with the woodwork still rattling after a David Eliot drive.
Dundalk manager Des Denning sent on tricky attacker Ollie Brady hoping that his pace would help to retrieve the situation but the Hoops held on.
DUNDALK 2002: Steve Williams; John Whyte, Donal Broughan, Stephen McGuinness, David Crawley; David Hoey, Chris Lawless, Noel Melvin, Cormac McArdle; Martin Reilly, Garry Haylock. Subs used: David O’Leary, Peter Woods, Ollie Brady, Martin Gill, Tom McNulty, Chris Malone, Cormac Malone, Padraig Gollogley.
CELTIC LEGENDS: Alan McKnight, Tom Boyd, Rudi Vata, Alan Stubbs, David Elliott, Brian O’Neil, Joe Miller, Tommy Johnson, Bobby Petta, Pierre Van Hooijdonk, Regi Blinker. Subs used: Mick Clarke, Dermot McCaffrey, Martin Duffy, Fergal O’Hanlon.
REFEREE: Colin Halligan.