Another night when elation turned into frustration for Dundalk, the FAI Cup holders were once again held back in their bid to rise in the league table and escape the relegation zone which, despite some decent end-of-season form, remains ominously over their shoulder, a mere three points away.
o one really expects Dundalk to get relegated but, having held a 1-0 lead over Bohemians from the 28th minute and appearing to be in control, they were expected to come away from Dalymount Park with a win, which would have made it an impressive 13 points from a possible 15.
Instead, thanks to a rush of blood to the head and a rash challenge from Dan Cleary on Ali Coote in the 89th minute, Vinny Perth’s side conceded a penalty, which ex-Dundalk man Georgie Kelly scored to claim his 19th league goal of the season and, more importantly for his club, earn them a draw which keeps a European place within their grasp.
Cleary’s challenge on Coote, right at the end of the box after a corner had been cleared, was senseless, and a disappointment for the away side’s fans as Cleary and his defensive sidekick, Andy Boyle, had been superb for the previous 89 minutes, restricting Bohs to limited chances and providing solid protection to Peter Cherrie’s goal.
It was definitely a case of two points dropped, not one gained, for Dundalk who are in seventh place but, worryingly, the two sides directly below them have a game in hand.
Bar Dundalk’s 5-1 hammering at Dalymount in May, the nadir of their season, the meetings of the two clubs this campaign have been settled by one goal, and this was always going to be a tense affair.
Both sides are capable of making errors at the back – before last night both clubs had just one clean sheet in the last 10 games.
That tension was clear as it took until the 22nd minute for a chance of note to emerge, when Liam Burt was felled on the edge of the box by Sam Stanton, but the free-kick, from Tyreke Wilson, was deflected as the danger ebbed away.
On 27 minutes, Bohs came closer, a great run and shot by defender Anto Breslin leading to a corner-kick which Devoy took, but Georgie Kelly’s headed effort was off-target.
A minute later, Dundalk were ahead. Wilson tried to head the ball back to his ’keeper but Pat Hoban managed to get between James Talbot and the ball, freeing up possession and Sami Ben Amar was left to calmly chip the ball into an empty net.
Dundalk lost some of their threat when Hoban limped off just before the end of the first half, a concern ahead of next week’s FAI Cup semi-final and, bar two saves from Talbot to deny Seán Murray and Will Patching, Bohs were in control for long spells in the second half.
A brilliant move, started by Kelly and finished by Omochere, deserved a goal on 68 minutes but Cherrie saved.
Fresh legs off the bench gave Bohs some zest, teenager Jamie Mullins with a clever lay-off for Kelly on 77 minutes, but Cherrie was equal to the task and saved.
Cherrie was there again with two minutes to go, keeping out a well-struck effort from Lyons.
Dundalk only had to see the game out but then came Cleary’s moment of panic, the foul on Coote, and while Cherrie managed to get a touch to Kelly’s penalty, the ball went over the line, earning a draw for Bohs but inflicting pain on the away side who had the game in their grasp but lacked the composure to see it out.
BOHEMIANS – Talbot; Lyons, Cornwall, Breslin, Wilson; Tierney (Coote 60), Levingston (Buckley 74); Omochere (Mullins 74), Devoy (Ward 80), Burt (Idowu 74); G Kelly.
DUNDALK – Cherrie; Sloggett, Boyle, Cleary, Leahy; Stanton; Ben Amar (Kelly 68), Patching (Animasahun 84), Murray, Duffy; Hoban (McMillan 45).
REF – D MacGraith