Protests give way to a big win for Dundalk over Shamrock Rovers

Fans held banners outside the ground in a show of discontent with Lilywhites owners

Protesters outside Oriel Park ahead of the game between Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Protesters outside Oriel Park ahead of the game between Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Dundalk 2 Shamrock Rovers 1

“We want our club back!” screamed an elongated black banner held by Dundalk ultras on the Carrickmacross road outside Oriel Park on Friday night.

Nearby stood a gaggle of Gardaí, ready to outflank the disgruntled supporters if a faction attempted to pull an ‘Old Trafford’ or block the incoming Shamrock Rovers team bus.

Nobody wanted that to happen with the majority shuffling away to live stream what proved a gripping contest that really should have been a top of the table clash. It felt like it.

A few flares were launched towards the main stand but the Hulsizer iron dome held firm. There was genuine anger among the disenfranchised 150 or so, just not enough to spark a pitch battle or baton charge we have witnessed across the pond in modern times.

Protestors hold up a banner outside the ground. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Protestors hold up a banner outside the ground. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Still, the lifeblood of this club - before the Americans added Irish soccer to their investment portfolio, a situation that currently feels like a giant tanker stuck in the Suez Canal - made their voice heard.

The people of Dundalk want them gone, specifically chairman Bill Hulsizer, with the head scratching appointment and subsequent removal of Filippo Giovagnoli, and efforts to play home matches in Dublin also highlighted in their petition.

Perhaps the locals would be calmed by sporting director Jim Magilton or Hulsizer, or whoever is in charge, hiring a manager before the mid-season break. Stephen Kenny, here to watch his former clubs do battle, is unavailable but an exceptional motivator like Jim McGuinness could turn the tide.

The gallows humour was in full flow with “Jimmy’s Winning Matches” blared out as the players walked off the pitch.

Nobody knows what will happen next, in this long running saga, but throughout the history of organised sport one guaranteed way to get a billionaire owner and supporters on the same page is to knock the league champions off their perch.

If only for one night. Dundalk began the evening 16 points adrift of Rovers’ apparent romp to a record 19th league title and another embarrassing result seemed inevitable in the opening exchanges as Danny Mandroiu and Gary O’Neill bossed midfield.

Dundalk’s Patrick McEleney gives Dundalk the lead. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Dundalk’s Patrick McEleney gives Dundalk the lead. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Then, on 12 minutes, Patrick McEleney held off Roberto Lopes, after a sumptuous ball by Dan Kelly, to give Dundalk the lead.

The remaining protesters, clinging to hoardings at the Garda station end, collapsed into delirium. Within 90 seconds the young lads had disappeared, sickened by Joey O’Brien’s equaliser.

Rovers continued to dominate possession, but Michael Duffy really should have put Dundalk 2-1 up on 32 minutes only to shoot straight at Alan Mannus from a tricky angle.

But Dundalk were not to be denied their third win of the season as Kelly thumped home the winner after McEleney returned the favour on the hour mark.

Now all they need is a manager or a coach or someone to guide them back to where, for so long under Kenny, they appeared to belong. Perhaps, after all the recent strife, that person is Magilton.

Nothing clears the fog better than three precious points. With Sligo beating Longford 2-0, Rovers lead at the top has been cut to just two points.

Dundalk: Abibi; Dummigan, Shields, Boyle, Jurkovskis; Zahibo, Stanton (Sloggett 78), McEleney Duffy; McMillan, Kelly (Midtskogen 75).

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Grace, Lopes, O’Brien; O’Neill, Gannon, Scales, Burke (Williams 86), Mandroiu; Gaffney, Greene.

Referee: Robert Harvey (Dublin).

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