Dundalk’s FAI Cup dreams shattered as Buttimer takes centre stage

Padraig Whelan at Hu

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Padraig Whelan at Hu

Dundalk’s FAI Cup dreams shattered as Buttimer takes centre stage
Three horrendous refereeing decisions prevented Dundalk from reaching the FAI Cup final, condemning them to a controversial loss against Drogheda United on Sunday afternoon.

Three horrendous refereeing decisions prevented Dundalk from reaching the FAI Cup final, condemning them to a controversial loss against Drogheda United on Sunday afternoon.

Referee Anthony Buttimer brandished a harsh red card at Darren Meenan after 26 minutes and five minutes later, Chris Shields’ reward for a very well-timed tackle on Declan O’Brien inside the penalty area was the award of a spot kick and another early shower.

Gavin Brennan stroked home the resulting penalty, leaving nine man Dundalk with it all to do.

And despite a brave second-half showing, the Lilywhites found it a bridge too far as the Drogs sat back and played the game out to set themselves up for an FAI Cup final date with Sligo Rovers on November 3 at the Aviva Stadium.

The local neighbours were doing battle for the first time in this competition since 2011 when, after a replay, two fine goals from Keith Ward and Mark Quigley ensured Dundalk went marching on before Bohemians halted their progress.

Mark Rossiter missed out on the contest after coming down with a flu bug and John Sullivan took his place in the side while Stephen O’Donnell made his return from suspension, coming in for John Dillon.

The ball skidded from one end to the other in the frantic early minutes as the sides adjusted to the rain which continued to drive down before Gavin Brennan curled a free kick over the top for the home side.

It was the kind of edgy opening many had anticipated given that these sides have served up similar such close affairs throughout 2013 already and this was to prove no different, especially with the magnitude of this particular occasion.

Brian Gartland skewed a header wide on 12 minutes from a Meenan dead ball and three minutes later they almost had an opener when O’Donnell got to a delightful Dane Massey cross before Micheal Schlingermann but his header ended up falling wide of the left-hand post.

Then, controversy and chaos reigned. Paul O’Conor was on the receiving end of a sliding tackle from Meenan on the edge of the area which shockingly had Buttimer reaching to his back pocket much to the fury of the visiting bench and support.

If that was bad though, it got much worse minutes later when O’Brien tore into the box.

And although Shields got a toe in to steer the ball away from danger, Buttimer made the inexplicable decision to send off the Lilywhites midfielder, making the wrong decision for the third time in five minutes, not that it will be much comfort to Dundalk.

Despite all the furore over those decisions and the building tension, Gavin Brennan kept a cool head to step up and place the ball into the corner and give his side a massive advantage in their bid to reach yet another cup final.

Sullivan had a good header saved near half time from a Kurtis Byrne corner, Schlingermann reacting well at the near post to deny him.

Dundalk’s first team coach Vinny Perth and fitness coach Graham Byrne were also shown the red card at half time for questioning the decisions and when the second started, Ryan Brennan had an early header well saved by Peter Cherrie as the hosts looked for a goal that would have killed the contest.

Gavin Brennan gave Sullivan the runaround before blasting in a strike that Cherrie did well to punch clear at his near post as little chances were created with Dundalk understandably struggling to break down a stodgy Drogheda unit.

Brennan missed with another fizzed strike and O’Brien flicked a header wide of the mark as the minutes ticked down before Tiarnan Mulvenna created a chance out of nothing when he tore past his marker from the halfway line and into the box but his high strike was well tipped over by Schilingermann.

Cherrie did the same at the other when Drogheda countered through Shane Grimes.

The Scot produced another solid stop from a Ryan Brennan volley again late in the game but as the final whistle blew, it was apparent that the man calling an end to the contest might as well have did so after 30 minutes, such was his influence in determining the outcome of the clash.