Dundalk 1; Waterford United 0
Quite a lot was expected from this game played in Oriel Park on Thursday last because both sides were locked together at the top of the league table on a total of eleven points. Each had scored eight goals and conceded just three so there was nothing to separate them prior to the game.
The previous week, the Blues had defeated Limerick 37 while Dundalk had drawn away with Sporting Fingal. In the match programme the Lilywhites manager John Gill described that performance as “clueless” and as a result he made four changes to his starting eleven.
Gareth Cronin also made four changes but he had no option due to illness, injury and suspension. Paul McCarthy was missing because of an injury he picked up against Limerick. Karl Bermingham was absent as he was sent off against the Shannonsiders. Dave Warren (knee) and Stephen Quigley (sore throat) failed to pass fitness tests before the game.
In came Vinny Sullivan, Luke Fitzpatrick, Gary Dunphy for his full debut and Kevin Waters. During the course of the game David Breen had to leave the pitch with an ankle injury so this was going to be a big ask for Waterford United.
The expected fireworks never occurred and the game was a pretty poor affair. The so called “plastic pitch” undoubtedly helped Dundalk but the bald truth is that far to many of the Waterford players failed to step up to the plate on the night.
It expected that for this Friday’s game at home to Kildare County the Blues team will be back to full strength, and supporters and manager alike will be happy about that.
Waterford United did look the slightly better team during the course of the first half. Michael Foley sent over a free kick from the right after 10 minutes which was met by Willie John Kiely but he shot over the crossbar from 8 yards, surrounded by two defenders.
Not a lot happened again until the 20th minute. Gary Dunphy who was playing out on the wide right passed the ball to Willie John Kiely who in turn picked out Vinny Sullivan but he headed straight at the Dundalk goalkeeper Chris Bennion.
Kieran Fitzgerald then played a long ball forward to Kiely who headed the ball rather weakly over the advancing goalkeeper but defender Ian Ryan got back easily enough to clear the ball just before it reached the goal-line.
The only time Dundalk came near to scoring in the first period came on 43 minutes. David Crawley sent in a free kick from the left to the far post but Ian Ryan headed well wide.
John Gill replaced the out of form Robbie Martin with a young local player, Tiernan Mulvenna for the second half and the youngster was to make a huge difference for the home side. He is a very fast player with a lot of skill and he gave Gill’s men a boost.
Just before the hour mark he sprayed a lovely ball out to Jamie Duffy who crossed to the far post from the right but Trevor Vaughn somehow managed to head wide from close range. It looked easier to score in fact.
The only goal of the game arrived after 63 minutes. Dundalk were awarded a free kick by the fussy referee, Neil Doyle from Dublin. David Crawley released David O’Connor on the left and when he crossed to David Cassidy he struck a stunning volley at the Waterford goal from the edge of the penalty area. The ball took a slight deflection off John Hayes, who had replaced the injured Breen and goalkeeper Pakie Holden had no chance of saving Cassidy’s shot.
Gareth Cronin then moved Michael Foley and Gary Dunphy into the middle of the park before bringing on Joe Mulcahy (brother of Dave) and a little later David Grincell to play alongside Vinny Sullivan and Willie John Kiely in a 4-3-3 formation.
Mulcahy who went wide right almost scored the equaliser on 70 minutes following a strong run down the flank. His curling shot went inches wide of the far upright. It was a strange looking Waterford team at this stage and Dundalk held on without any great deal of difficulty against this weird looking Blues side.
Not a game that will live in the memory for to long and now that the unbeaten run has come to an end the Blues will have to start all over again, starting this Friday.Dundalk: Chris Bennion, John Flanagan, David Crawley, Aidan Lynch, Ian Ryan, Paul Crowlry, Jamie Duffy, David Cassidy, Trevor Vaughan, Robbie Martin, David O’Connor. Subs: Tiernan Mulvenna for Martin (h-t), Robert Farrell for Vaughan (77 mins), Paul Marney for Duffy (88 mins).
Waterford United: Pakie Holden, Kieran Fitzgerald, Robbie Clarke, David Breen, Kenny Browne, Luke Fitzpatrick, Gary Dunphy, Kevin Waters, Vinny Sullivan, Willie John Kiely, Michael Foley. Subs: John Hayes for Breen (51 mins), Joe Mulcahy for Fitzpatricck (64 mins), David Grincell for Waters (71 mins).
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin).