Drogheda Utd 2
Dundalk 3

Dundalk’s recent dominance of the Malone Cup continued at Head in the Game Park on Saturday as they made it six wins in-a-row in the annual match against neighbours Drogheda Utd.

While the trophy to honour the late Jim Malone is undoubtedly the least significant of the various pieces of silverware Filippo Giovagnoli’s side will challenge for this season, this result at least ensured that the shortened two game pre-season ends with a 100% record.

It’s now on to the President’s Cup with Shamrock Rovers on Friday before the league opener away to Sligo Rovers eight days later.

The article as it appeared in The Argus on March 9th 2021

While this game threw up a few positives to take into those two matches, it left plenty of food for thought as well.

For while Dundalk look like they’ll score plenty this season, for now at least, they also look like they’ll ship a few goals at the other end too.

Given five of the starting 11 on Saturday weren’t at the club last season and Val Adedokun’s total number of first team minutes up to the end of last season was seven, perhaps it’s not surprising that there are a few things to be worked out.

Some of those kinks weren’t helped by new goalkeeper Alessio Abibi coming for and completely missing a Jake Hyland corner after just five minutes which his side were lucky to scramble clear. The Albanian is under the spotlight more than most right now and he again looked somewhat rattled two minutes later when he had to punch away a cross from James Brown under pressure from Chris Lyons.

With Darragh Leahy playing in an unfamiliar left centre back position and Adedokun showing signs of early nerves, Drogheda targeted this area early on with Lyons popping up with the lead goal on 20 minutes when he got ahead of Andy Boyle to nod Brandon Bermingham’s cross past Abibi.

Dundalk were perhaps unfortunate to be behind at that stage. Sam Stanton was denied what looked a stone wall penalty eight minutes earlier after being felled in the box by Dane Massey with Ryan O’Kane dragging the follow up chance across the goal and wide.

The 17-year-old, who followed up an impressive debut against Bohemians a week earlier with another fine showing here, then delivered a peach of a free kick into the box on the quarter hour mark for Boyle to attack but the centre half somehow failed to find the target with what was a fantastic chance.

O’Kane would have a big role to play in Dundalk’s equaliser on 25 minutes though. After a good link up with Adedokun, he drove into the box before being fouled by Luke Heeney. David McMillan then made no mistake from the spot to send David Odumosu the wrong way.

Tim Clancy’s side almost restored their advantage within a couple of minutes when Daniel O’Reilly played Bermingham in behind Adedokun but his shot was touched into the side-netting by Abibi.

Adedokun, another teenager from the club’s academy, grew into the game after a shaky start and popped up with his first goal for the club on 37 minutes to give Dundalk a 2-1 lead at the break. Stanton did superbly well to release Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe on the right with the former Derry City star’s cross finding its way to Adedokun who controlled with his left foot before firing high to the roof of the net with his right to ensure the home side led at half-time.

Ronan Murray, one of three former Dundalk players starting for the home side on the day, received some advice at half-time to target Abibi based on his position. Within 15 seconds of the restart he would fire just wide but on 52 minutes he would level for his side in spectacular fashion with a superb free kick. While the goalkeeper’s position and setup of the wall were questioned, Murray’s free kick flew to the top left hand corner and suddenly it was game on once again.

Drogheda could and probably should have taken the lead two minutes later as the visitors defence fell asleep. Another Murray free kick saw him disguise a shot only to pick out Lyons in acres of space on the left but his pull back to O’Reilly was blazed over by the centre half.

That scare aside, the introduction of Patrick McEleney saw Dundalk begin to dominate the game and it was the Derry man who conjured up the winner fo his side on 68 minute when he delivered a superb free kick in from the right that Greg Sloggett, from nearby Gormanston, headed past Colin McCabe. If Drogheda had cause for complaint it would be that it looked like Junior had stood on the ball rather than was fouled for the free which led to what proved to be the winner.

Dundalk had plenty of chances to add to their lead after that with Leahy scuffing wide, Junior heading over from a Raivis Jurkovskis cross and McCabe making three good late stops to deny Patrick Hoban twice either side of saving a free kick from Junior.

There was plenty of promise shown from Dundalk once again with Jurkovskis once again looking very useful, Stanton showing good glimpses of his potential and Junior looking like an astute signing.

The flaws at the back, which were also evident in the 2-1 win over Bohemians a week earlier, will need to be ironed out though.

The President’s Cup might be a glorified friendly but it’s a chance for Dundalk to lay down a marker. Let’s see what sort of statement is made.

Drogheda Utd: David Odumosu (Colin McCabe HT); James Brown, Daniel O’Reilly, Dane Massey (Jack Tuite 60), Conor Kane; Luke Heeney, Jake Hyland (Killian Phillips HT), James Clarke (Ryan O’Shea 60); Brandon Bermingham (Jordan Adeyemo 60), Chris Lyons, Ronan Murray (Mohamed Boudiaf 72). Subs not used: Hugh Douglas, Darragh Markey, Sam O’Brien, Charles Mutawe.

Dundalk: Alessio Abibi (Peter Cherrie 60); Daniel Cleary, Andy Boyle, Darragh Leahy; Raivis Jurkovskis, Sam Stanton (Greg Sloggett 60), Chris Shields, Val Adedokun (Jesus Perez 65); Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe, David McMillan (Patrick Hoban HT), Ryan O’Kane (Patrick McEleney HT). Subs not used: Mayowa Animashun, German Giammattei.

Referee: Derek Tomney.