Muirhevna Mor's Billy Smith celebrates his equaliser against Newfoundwell on Friday night with team mate Stephen Fisher. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
Muirhevna Mor 1 Newfoundwell 1
The decision to move Billy Smith from the left-wing to centre-forward proved telling as champions Muirhevna Mor earned themselves a point against Newfoundwell in Dundalk tonight.
Following a neat backheel from Micky O'Kane, Smith showed no hesitation in finding the bottom corner with a powerful drive as the Blues cancelled out a first-half opener from visiting striker John Kermode.
A draw was the fairest result in truth as the game was sluggish for the most part. Neither of last season's top-two
Referee Paul McGeown handed out eight
McGeown was perhaps lenient in awarding only the eight bookings, however, considering the tetchiness of the contest and the pressure that he was coming under from both players and spectators alike, had he begun brandishing cards more frequently, the match could have got out of hand.
There were several strange decisions, though with the official favouring neither side, he certainly cannot be held accountable for the teams' failure to take a firm grip on proceedings.
Despite taking the lead, the visitors would be the happier of the outfits in claiming a point. They relaxed into a defensive mould in the second-half, frustrating the hosts who lacked a creative spark in the final third. Though, Newfoundwell could so easily have completed the double over the 'Mor as midfielder Dean Carolan passed up a wonderful opportunity in stoppage time having found himself one-on-one with David Cooney. The 'keeper, however, stayed tall and blocked the effort as the goal gaped.
Smith's goal, Murphy's dipping free-kick and a fine effort from O'Kane, which Brown saved expertly, apart, the hosts created little after Mulvenna's flicked header on two-minutes shaved the outside of the post. And, while they continued to have much of the play, it was Newfoundwell who looked more threatening with Kermode heading home from point-blank range on 27-minutes after Adam O'Connor's cross had evaded Chris Caulfield at full stretch.
The other Kermode brother, Brian, drew a fine tip-over save from Cooney before the break and the importance of that save became apparent when Smith finished the move of the match 16-minutes into the second-half. The involvement of Niall Hearty and O'Kane in the build-up to the Blues' leveller certainly cannot be underestimated.
Muirhevna Mor move top of the table courtesy of the point, however, a draw for Newfoundwell means they remain on course to play a central part in the title run-in. The Drogheda side
Muirhevna Mor: David Cooney; Niall Hearty, Chris Caulfield, Adrian Rafferty, Nathan Murphy; Stephen Fisher, Colin Hoey, Philip Duffy, Billy Smith; Micky O'Kane, Tiarnan Mulvenna
Subs: Paudie Hearty for Duffy (60), Brendan Hughes for Fisher (67), Paul Mallon for Rafferty (87)
Newfoundwell: Ronan Brown; Daryl McDonagh, Stephen Murphy, Kevin Bull, Adam O'Connor; Brian Kermode, Dean Carolan, Rob Cashman, Ryan Connor; John Kermode, Ian Devine
Subs: Anto Burke for Devine (64), Craig O'Connor for Connor (67), Cormac Reid for John Kermode (83)
Referee: Paul McGeown