equalizer through the head of Romeo
Sligo Rovers and Dundalk delivered a delightful duel in the Showgrounds on Saturday’s Premier Division opener, with the returning Romeo Parkes back amongst the goals and a myriad of club debutants displaying their qualities in a 1-1 draw. Patrick McEleney opened the scoring for Dundalk after a mix-up at the back, but their lead was short-lived, with Parkes rising to meet a beautiful Robbie McCourt free kick.
The first game of our season led to an all-new lineup for this game, with the home-grown talent Johnny Kenny making his senior competitive debut at just 17, joined up top by a returning Romeo Parkes. 5 of the 11 starting the match were signings made over the winter, with Horgan, McCourt, Figueira, Gibson and Bolger all linking up with the squad for the first time over the pre-season.
The first half of Rover’s season as a frenetic, swashbuckling affair, with the Bit O’Red maintaining a high-pressing philosophy from the first minute to the last. The Sligo crew weren’t afraid to go toe to toe with the recently crowned President’s Cup champions, with our 4-4-2 shape in stark contrast to Fillipo Giovagnoli and Shane Keegan’s 3-5-2 shape, which included a former Rovers player up top in Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe. Liam Buckley’s side was soon reminded of the dangers of playing such a patient, probing style of play however, with Ed McGinty playing the ball to a well-marked Greg Bolger who spilled the ball, which fell to Patrick McEleney, who still had a lot to do despite the mix-up and found the top corner well. Despite this unfortunate blow, the Bit O’Red refused to crumble and ended up driving on and scoring an equalizer through the head of Romeo Parkes, fresh from a year on loan in New Mexico, from a stupendous Robbie McCourt. We nearly finished the first half 2-1 down, when Ed McGinty misjudged the flight of a ball over the top and allowed Junior to square to Hoban, who struck wide.
The second half was as, if not more frenzied than the first, with Rovers dominating the last 25 minutes of the clash, with the first 20 minutes being somewhat controlled by Dundalk, who had some chances to score, most notably through Pat Hoban, heading just wide from an inswinging corner. Rovers responded well to this wake-up call, having the lion’s share of possession and chances. Walter Figueira and Romeo Parkes came off after 78 minutes for the young gun and the old hand, Mark Byrne and David Cawley. In the end, the Bit O’Red were unfortunate not to win the match, with some fluid interplay leading to some huge chances, the most obvious coming 2 minutes from time, with the two substitutes combining for Mark Byrne to poke home into an open net, but the play was called back for a controversial offside by referee Neil Doyle
SLIGO ROVERS: E McGinty, C Horgan, J Mahon, G Buckley, R McCourt, J Gibson, G Bolger, N Morahan, W Figueira (M Byrne 78), R Parkes (D Cawley 78), J Kenny.
DUNDALK: A Abibi, D Cleary, A Boyle, S Nattestad, R Jurkovskis, C Shields, P McEleney, C Dummigan, J Ogedi-Uzokwe (M Duffy 75), P Hoban (S Stanton 75).
REF: Neil Doyle
Ed McGinty: 5 – Seemed nervy today, was partly to blame for the goal and misjudged the flight of the ball late in the first half which lead to a scary moment, but improved in the second half.
Colm Horgan: 6 – A solid debut for the Galway man.
Garry Buckley: 6 – A quietly decent performance.
John Mahon: 8 – Seems a much better passer of the ball than last season, and also made some crucial tackles in the second half.
Robbie McCourt: 7 – Couldn’t have played a better ball in for Romeo’s equalizer but could have later on in the match.
Jordan Gibson: 8 – Another very solid debutant, got the official Man of the Match and quite rightly so due to some wonderful trickery on the right.
Greg Bolger: 7 – Bossed proceedings all through the match with his tenacity and workrate.
Niall Morahan: 6 – Played well, looked sharp despite his relative lack of pre-season game time.
Walter Figueira: 6 – Didn’t affect the game at the number 10 role as much he could/should have. Replaced by Cawley.
Romeo Parkes: 8 – Came up trumps to equalize midway through the first half. Was taken off for Byrne for some reason.
Johnny Kenny: 7 – A very good debut for a potentially very, very good player. Pressed with intent and nearly scored late on.