DERRY dealt Dundalk’s title a further setback as they were held the reigning league champions to score draw at Oriel Park last night.
Cork City’s 2-1 win over Sligo Rovers on Monday let the reigning champions 16 points adrift at the start of play.
A win was essential for Stephen Kenny’s side but they failed to get it, as Derry City left with a well earned share of the spoils, and almost grabbed a late winner.
It means the Candy Stripes are now unbeaten in their last eight games after a poor run of former following the death in March of their ‘Captain Courageous’ Ryan McBride.
Manager Kenny Shiels has help his players turn the corner, are well organised again and are starting play the football that makes them difficult to beat.
The champions opened brightly and Ger Doherty was called into action after just three minutes, turning Paddy Barrett’s glancing header from Patrick McEleney’s floated free-kick around the post.
The Derry City goalkeeper then got a strong hand on a powerful Dane Massey effort six minutes later with McEleney seeing the follow-up deflected wide.
With Rory Patterson absent with a broken foot, the Candsystripes lacked punch up front and failed to create a single opening in the opening 45 minutes.
Dundalk looked the only team likely to fashion an opening and Chris Shields fired a half-volley over the top as the game dried past the half hour mark.
Things improved considerably after the break with lone Derry City striker Nathan Boyle driving a low effort
across the face of the Dundalk goal early in the half.
Jamie McGrath then blazed over from a McEleney cut back before the Derryman located Massey on the left
with a delicious pass but the full-back’s knockdown just couldn’t reach David McMillan.
McEleney required some strapping to his right knee on the hour mark and he was withdrawn six minutes later, Ciaran Kildu his replacement.
Derry carried much more of a threat at that stage and they almost went in front 60 seconds before McEleney’s departure. Nicky Low’s corner from the right came over Sean Hoare and looped towards goal but luckily for the Dundalk centre-back Benson was on the post to clear.
The Oriel Park faithful feared the worst when Boyle capitalised on a slip by Hoare in the 76th minute but he hit the side-netting with just Gary Rogers to beat.
Doherty tipped a Michael Duy drive around the post in the 89th minute but Derry City saw it out relatively comfortably.
And City almost snatched a win themselves in stoppage time but Aaron McEneff, who has been on the score sheet of late, hit the side netting.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Niclas Vemmelund, Sean Hoare, Paddy Barrett, Dane Massey; Chris Shields (Stephen O’Donnell 74), Robbie Benson; Michael Duy, Patrick McEleney (Ciaran Kildu 66), Jamie McGrath; David McMillan (Thomas Stewart 79).
Derry City: Ger Doherty; Conor McDermott, Aaron Barry, Dean Jarvis; Harry Monaghan, Lucas Schubert (Josh Daniels 75), Nicky Low, Barry McNamee, Ronan Curtis; Aaron McEne,
Nathan Boyle (Mark Timlin 79)