Gartland rescues point for Dundalk against Finn Harps PICTURE: Stephen McCarthy
SSE Airtricity League Premier Division
Finn Harps 1-1 Dundalk FC
Brian Gartland played a captain’s role with his 70th-minute header rescuing a point for Dundalk FC who were once again left frustrated, as Finn Harps held firm for a 1-1 draw in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division in Donegal on Friday night.
Vinny Perth brought in Seán Murray for his full league debut and he was joined in the lineup by Dean Jarvis, as the head coach started life without Patrick McEleney and Robbie Benson for the foreseeable future.
Harps – backed by a strong home support on their Finn Park top-flight return – put Dundalk under pressure early on, but the reigning champions soon settled.
On seven minutes, after a throw-in routine, the ball sat up invitingly for Michael Duffy outside the area and his snap-shot was turned behind by Peter Burke.
Midway through the half, Dane Massey clipped a cross into the box which was flicked on by Murray to Hoban whose overhead-kick went agonisingly wide. The Lilywhites went closer on 34 minutes when Massey’s 25-yard free-kick crashed back off the crossbar, before an excellent corner delivery from Murray was met by Jarvis whose diving header was deflected off target.
Harps, though, weathered the storm and they stunned Dundalk four minutes before half-time when the experienced Raffaele Cretaro swung in a corner and Keith Cowan rose to power past Gary Rogers.
It could have been worse for the Oriel Park outfit moments later when Nathan Boyle raided down the right and squared for Seán Boyd – the on-loan Shamrock Rovers striker – but before it could reach him, Seán Hoare slid in to deny the hosts a certain second.
Dundalk made a bright beginning after the restart but they were almost caught with a sucker-punch on 49 minutes when Harps broke forward, with Cretaro’s shot from the edge of the area pushed away by Rogers. Cretaro then slid Boyd through on goal but Rogers raced out to gather.
For all their possession, Dundalk were struggling to create anything of note in the final third. As they chased a goal, Daniel Kelly was thrown into action on 67 minutes and, shortly after, he won the corner that led to the equaliser, as Gartland hammered Duffy’s delivery to the net.
Jordan Flores was then introduced for his league bow and in the next play it should have been 2-1 to Dundalk but Gartland’s header was cleared off the line before somehow Murray was denied at the back post.
Harps remained dangerous on the counter and substitute Niall McGinley was almost in on 80 minutes but Dundalk did enough to put him off. At the other end, Burke tipped Duffy’s chip away. But despite the pressure rising in the closing minutes, Dundalk could not find another way through.
Finn Harps: Peter Burke, John Kavanagh, Jacob Borg, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd, Gareth Harkin (c), Raffaele Cretaro (Niall McGinley 75), Nathan Boyle (Caolán McAleer 86), Mark Coyle, Daniel O’Reilly, Seán Boyd (Mikey Place 67).
Subs not used: Ciarán Gallagher (GK), Colm Deasy, Liam Walsh, Tony McNamee.
Dundalk FC: Gary Rogers, Seán Gannon, Seán Hoare, Brian Gartland (c), Dane Massey, Chris Shields, Dean Jarvis (Jordan Flores 77), John Mountney (Daniel Kelly 65), Seán Murray (Cameron Dummigan 85), Michael Duffy, Patrick Hoban.
Subs not used: Aaron McCarey (GK), Georgie Kelly, Stephen Folan, Daniel Cleary.
Referee: Rob Rogers.