Patrick Hoban’s 74th-minute strike proved decisive in a disappointing Louth derby as Dundalk deservedly overcame fierce rivals Drogheda 1-0 in the Airtricity League at Hunky Dorys Park.
Drogheda had the game’s first real chance when Declan O’Brien shot narrowly wide, but gradually Dundalk took control and Richie Towell went close on three occasions before Hoban had a strike controversially disallowed on 42 minutes.
The game looked to be heading for a goalless draw until Hoban was put through on goal and the youngster finished superbly.
Even after Dundalk had John Mountney sent off for a second booking, they held out comfortably for the points.
Drogheda were presented with the game’s first chance in the fourth minute when referee Alan Kelly spotted a hand-ball just outside the area, but Peter Hynes sliced the resulting free-kick well wide.
A clearer opportunity fell to the home side when Paul O’Conor knocked down a cross into the path of O’Brien whose left-footed shot just missed the angle of post and crossbar.
Ryan Brennan was also off target from long range, but gradually Dundalk gained the ascendancy in midfield and their former Celtic midfielder Towell twice threatened from the edge of the box.
Their best chance of the first period came on the half-hour from a counter attack as Stephen McDonnell escaped his marker and delivered a pinpoint cross for lone striker Hoban whose flying header grazed the upright.
Dundalk thought they had hit the front on 43 minutes when Hoban squeezed the ball in at the near post, only for the assistant referee to flag, signalling the ball had gone out over the byline.
Drogheda made a bright start to the second half, forcing three early corners, one of which led to a blocked shot by Hynes.
Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny’s response was to replace Keith Ward with home-town player Tiarnan Mulvenna, while Drogheda brought on Gavin Brennan and Gary O’Neill for Jason Marks and Hynes as the home side looked for the breakthrough.
The game began to open up at this stage and Stephen McDonnell saw an 18-yard shot for the visitors graze the outside of the post, before Cherrie produced an outstanding reaction save to block O’Neill’s overhead effort.
Finally the deadlock was broken on 74 minutes when Drogheda’s Brian Gannon coughed up possession in midfield to Mulvenna who advanced on goal before slipping the ball to Hoban who slotted past keeper Schlingermann.
The game took another twist when Dundalk’s Mountney was dismissed for a second booking on 83 minutes as Kelly decided he had gone down too easily in the box following an Alan Byrne challenge.
But Dundalk held on for a valuable and well-deserved three points.
Drogheda United: Micheal Schlingermann; Brian Gannon, Alan McNally, Alan Byrne, Shane Grimes; Cathal Brady (Graham Rusk 78), Paul O’Conor, Ryan Brennan, Jason Marks (Gavin Brennan 61); Peter Hynes (Gary O’Neill 78), Declan O’Brien.
Subs not used: Philip Hand, Dean Gaynor, Michael Daly, Evin Farrell.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Mark Rossiter, Chris Shields, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey; John Mountney, John Dillon (Eoghan Osborne 86), Richie Towell, Stephen McDonnell, Keith Ward (Tiarnan Mulvenna 55); Patrick Hoban (Vinny Faherty 90).
Subs not used: Kurtis Byrne, Ciaran O’Connor, John McKeown, Aaron Shanahan.
Referee: Alan Kelly (Cork).