by Robert O'Reilly
There was late derby heartbreak for Drogheda United as they lost 2-1 to Dundalk at United Park.
A deflected 90th minute free kick from substitute John Mountney decided a thrilling game of football after Lee Duffy had cancelled out Darren Meenan’s opener.
Drogheda United manager Johnny McDonnell made one change from the side that won away to Bohemians last week as Sean Brennan replaced the injured Adam Whelan.
The hosts almost made the perfect start as Joe Gorman’s long ball found the run of Duffy who nutmegged Brian Gartland on the byline before firing into the side netting with only Gary Rogers to beat.
In what was a blistering opening to the game, Dundalk struck the woodwork on 14 minutes when Dane Massey’s deflected free kick came back off the post and away from danger.
Dundalk were denied once again when Schlingermann parried the ball into the path of Dave McMillan but the striker’s goal bound effort was cleared off the line by Sean Brennan.
While the home side looked dangerous going forward, they struggled at times to keep the Dundalk midfield at bay as on Schlingermann denied Meenan whose strike was heading for the far corner.
The breakthrough for the league leaders seemed inevitable and it finally arrived on 55 minutes as Meenan and Finn exchanged passes on the edge of the box with the former having a yard of space to find the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Drogheda responded brilliantly to going behind and they were level three minutes later as Jason Marks dispossessed Ronan Finn in midfield as Brennan played an inch perfect through ball for Duffy who out paced the Dundalk defence before rounding Gary Rogers to equalise.
Dundalk seemed determined to leave with all three points but they struggled to find a way past the irrepressible Schlingermann as he saved Andy Boyle’s bullet header from Meenan’s corner.
The Mayo man was in action again two minutes later as he raced off his line to smother Finn’s shot from 12 yards as the Lilywhites threatened to cut through the Drogheda defence at will.
While Drogheda had defended admirably all game, they seemed to tire in the final quarter as a quick switch of play saw Richie Towell find Sean Gannon unmarked but Schlingermann once again saved the defender’s close range strike.
The most likely avenue for a winner seemed to be from a set piece as Towell’s fiercely struck drive was parried by Schlingermann as the game entered its dying embers.
There was to be one final twist though as a cheap foul presented Dundalk with a free kick from 25 yards took a cruel deflection to wrong foot Schlingermann in goal.
Despite the result, Drogheda can take many positives from the game as they matched the reigning league champions from start to finish in a typically pulsating derby.
Drogheda will be back in action in a fortnight’s time when they entertain St Patrick’s Athletic at United Park.
Cathal Brady (Tiarnan Mulvenna 72),
Sean Brennan (James Daly 82)
Daryl Horgan (Chris Shields 90)
Ronan Finn (kurtis Byrne 82)
Dave McMillan (John Mountney 82)
Lee Duffy 58
Darren Meenan 55
John Mountney 90