Substitute Seán Murray rescued a point for Vinny Perth in his first SSE Airtricity League Premier Division game in charge of Dundalk who battled back from a half-time deficit to draw 1-1 with Sligo Rovers at Oriel Park on Friday night.
The head coach chose a familiar lineup, as the same starting XI from the President’s Cup win in Cork – and indeed last November’s FAI Cup final – took to the pitch, with Perth bidding to become the first Dundalk boss since 2010 to win his first league match.
After tipping over Brian Gartland’s early header, Sligo goalkeeper Edward McGinty was at the centre of controversy on six minutes when he escaped a card for slicing down Robbie Benson in the box. Benson was stretchered off with an ankle injury and, after a five-minute stoppage, Patrick Hoban saw his penalty held by the 19-year-old ‘keeper.
As Dundalk continued to dominate, Patrick McEleney curled just wide and then Dane Massey put a left-wing delivery on a plate for Murray – who had replaced Benson – but he diverted the ball off target from close range.
On 41 minutes, Murray hit a wonderful cross onto the head of Hoban at the back post but McGinty got a strong hand to it to deny the Lilywhites a deserved lead.
And moments later Oriel Park was silenced when Jack Keaney’s near 30-yard free-kick flew past Gary Rogers to give Sligo a shock interval advantage.
But the reigning champions were back on level terms in stunning fashion four minutes after the restart as Murray rifled to the net from the edge of the box, after a lay-off from Hoban.
Dundalk piled on the pressure. Murray twice went close and, with five minutes remaining, substitute Georgie Kelly connected with a Massey cross to the near post but he headed over as Sligo walked away with a hard-earned point.
Dundalk FC: Gary Rogers, Seán Gannon, Brian Gartland, Seán Hoare, Dane Massey, Chris Shields, Robbie Benson (Seán Murray 11), John Mountney (Daniel Kelly 74), Patrick McEleney (Georgie Kelly 83), Michael Duffy, Patrick Hoban.
Subs Not Used: Aaron McCarey (GK), Dean Jarvis, Daniel Cleary, Stephen Folan.
Sligo Rovers FC: Edward McGinty; Johnny Dunleavy, Dante Leverock, John Mahon, Regan Donelon, Kyle McFadden (c), Jack Keaney, Kris Twardek, Daryl Fordyce (Niall Morahan 83), Liam Kerrigan (Ronan Coughlan 87), Romeo Parkes.
Subs Not Used: Mitchell Beeney (GK), Lewis Banks, John Russell, James McGrath, Scott Lynch.
Referee: Robert Harvey.