Goalkeeper Fergal Sheeky was the hero for Dundalk Youths as his save from Pierce Hughes secured the young Lilywhites a 7-6 penalty shootout victory over Malahide United in the opening game of their Ferrari Cup defence at Oriel Park on Sunday morning.
Goals from Liam Keenan and Frank Osadebe saw the Youths hold a commanding 2-0 lead with the game approaching the final 25 minutes but they were pegged back by a Timmy Doherty goal before Wade Akinade forced extra time with a last gasp strike.
Extra-time failed to produce a winning goal and Dundalk’s grip on the trophy looked like it was slipping when Gavin Gaffey sent his penalty over the wall at the town end goal of Oriel Park.
However Sheeky stood tall to deny Dan Gilbert, and then Hughes, to put the holders in the hat for the next round.
Alan Browne’s side started the game brightly, shifting the ball around confidently with Anton Reilly, Cody Magill and Vlad Evseev all featuring prominently.
The first chance on goal fell to Malahide though with Sheeky having to make a smart save to his left to turn an Akinade half-volley around the post after seven minutes.
Dundalk responded well and Magill went close to opening the scoring in the 17th minute, rising high to meet Sean Matthews’s deft free-kick from the right only to guide his header agonisingly wide.
The game went through a quiet spell with little to write about until Dundalk struck the opening goal after 37 minutes.
It arrived following great play on the left by Evseev and left-back Fergal McDonald who combined with a number of quick, short passes.
Evseev got to the byline and his cut back invited McDonald to shoot from close range. The shot was well parried by Murphy but right winger Liam Keenan showed great instinct to smash home the loose ball from six-yards.
Dundalk could have doubled their lead within 60 seconds of the restart.
Keenan’s right wing cross was misjudged by Aaron Boyle but the loose ball fell to Matthews who could only turn his effort over the top, although the angle was very much against him.
The home side had their tails now and Anton Reilly stung the fingertips of Murphy after breaking on to a Evseev pass from midfield.
The second-half started where the first-half left off as Malahide found it tough to get out of their own half and it was no surprise when the Youths made it 2-0 10 minutes into the second period.
Evseev’s free-kick to the back post was headed back across goal and centre-back Frank Osadebe - who drew the anger of his manager minutes earlier when he was booked for dissent - showed great technique to smack home a blistering volley from close range.
Malahide kept going and they were rewarded in the 65th minute with a goal that put them right back into contention.
Akinade showed good composure to skip around Sheeky and even though his effort was blocked by a number of Dundalk defenders, Timmy Doherty was on hand to lash the ball past the stranded goalkeeper.
The goal visibly rocked Dundalk but they regained composure and created a number of well worked moves which just lacked a final ball.
At 2-1 the Youths needed a third goal to keep Malahide at arm’s length and they were almost punished in the 81st minute when Akinade broke clear after a mistake by the otherwise excellent Matthews but, although the United striker pushed the ball past Sheeky, it ran out of play before he could regather it.
That looked like it would be Malahide’s last chance of getting something from the game but they stunned Dundalk in the final seconds when Akinade managed to hold off a number of challenges to loop the ball into the net with what proved to be the last action of the regulation 90 minutes.
Extra-time saw both goalkeepers having to make a save apiece but there were no further goals meaning penalty kicks were needed to settle the tie.
Cody Magill set Dundalk on their way with the first penalty but it was advantage Malahide when Gaffey skied his effort.
Sheeky restored parity when he pulled off a fine save to deny Dan Gilbert and when Robbie Macken’s spot-kick made it 7-6 to Dundalk, Sheeky finished the job when he pulled off a fine save from Hughes.
DUNDALK YOUTHS: Fergal Sheeky; Cillian Mulligan (Robbie Macken 23), Frank Osadebe, Conor McCoy, Fergal McDonald; Liam Keenan (Gary Crummy 63), Anton Reilly, Cody Magill, Sean Matthews (James Renaghan 90); Aaron Boyle (Gavin Gaffey 63), Vlad Evseev. Unused subs: Conor Callan (GK).
REFEREE: Jim Doyle.