Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk played out a 0-0 draw on the opening night of the Airtricity League Premier Division season at Oriel Park.

A near full house turned out to watch the league opener under new manager Stephen Kenny, while a large vocal travelling support of Shamrock Rovers fans made the short trip north from Dublin.

The Dundalk side were almost unrecognisable from last season in both personnel and approach and opened the brighter, looking well-drilled and playing neat attacking football, but the match ended all-square following an entertaining 90 minutes in which Dundalk 'keeper Peter Cherrie saved a Gary McCabe penalty.

Rovers had the first chance on target after seven minutes when Billy Dennehy got on the end of Gary McCabe's looping cross. The header, however, was tame enough and proved no problem for keeper Cherrie.

Dundalk matched Rovers throughout and after 18 minutes a well-worked corner from the left allowed the impressive Kurtis Byrne to cross for Patrick Hoban, whose header on goal was well saved by Barry Murphy.

Rovers’ best effort came in the 20th minute from a James Chambers free-kick from 30 yards, which was kept low and well saved by Cherrie.

And two minutes later Dundalk had a great chance to take the lead following a mix-up at the back between central defenders Foran and McGuinness.

The ever-impressive Byrne latched on to the loose ball to drill a good effort on target, but it was straight at the keeper and Murphy made no mistake with the save.

Both sides were intent on keeping the ball on the slick Oriel Park surface and while there were no real attempts on goal for the remainder of the half, the game remained entertaining with good football being played and remaining at a high tempo.

Both sides maintained that pace in the second half and a couple of half-chances for Ward and Chambers respectively were not taken.

The game burst into life in the 66th minute as Billy Dennehy skipped past Dane Massey but the former Bray defender had committed to the tackle and took the Rovers winger down just inside the box.

McCabe took the penalty, but it was a poor effort straight down the middle and Cherrie, diving to his left, put his hand back to save and Dundalk cleared.

Dundalk pushed for a winner with the manager clearly not intent to settle for a draw, putting Vinny Faherty into the attack.
And it nearly paid dividends straight away as the former Galway and St Pat’s striker got on the end of a deep Massey cross to loop a header goalwards but it was well taken by the Rovers keeper.

Two minutes later Dundalk were again in attack mode as fellow substitute John Mountney hit a piledriver from the edge of the box, but Murphy again made an excellent diving save and held onto the ball to ease the pressure on the visitors’ goal.

Dundalk maintained their pressure high up the field but they were nearly caught out in injury time as a long ball out of the defence saw Karl Sheppard sprint clear, getting to the ball first, as Massey was beaten by the pace of the Reading man. The covering full-back had no option but to take Sheppard down on the edge of the box.

Massey received his marching orders and it was a risk that paid off as Ronan Finn crashed the resulting free into the wall and the ref blew for full time.

So the points were shared on the opening day of the 2013 season and almost all of the 2,598 crowd went home happy after a very entertaining scoreless draw.

Dundalk: Cherrie; Sullivan, Rossiter, Boyle, Massey; Byrne, Dillon (Mountney 78), Towell, O’Donnell (capt); Ward, Hoban (Faherty 76).

Shamrock Rovers: Murphy; Sullivan, McGuinness, Foran, Powell; McCabe (Sheppard 82), Rice Chambers (McCormack 82), Finn, Dennehy (Stewart 70); Kilduff.