Dundalk 0-0 Galway United
Galway United moved two points clear of the relegation play-off in the Airtricity Premier Division spot after holding champions Dundalk to a scoreless draw at Oriel Park.
The visitors would have been given a huge boost when the respective teams were named.
Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny rested a number of regulars with Sean Maguire, Gabriel Sava and Shane Grimes all given a chance to impress.
Grimes came in in to replace Dane Massey at left-back. It was the first time that Massey was absent from a team in a league fixture since 2 August 2013, some 73 games ago.
Of bigger concern to Dundalk fans will have been the absence of Richie Towell, the league’s top scorer missing out through a bout of pleurisy. The indications are that he will be fit for the FAI Cup final dress rehearsal with Cork City next week.
Galway United boss Tommy Dunne made just one change to the side that was beaten in a relegation six pointer by Limerick last week with Finnish winger Tomi Saarelma coming in for his first league appearance for the club.
There was a nice touch before the game with the visitors affording the champions a guard of honour as they entered the pitch. The Oriel Park crowd then paid tribute to the late Garda Tony Golden, who was laid to rest in the town on Thursday afternoon.
Despite having the title in the bag, Kenny said there would be no let up from his team in their final three games but they lacked fluency throughout.
Chris Shields, still chasing his first goal of the season, flashed an effort just off target early on and John Mountney saw a rasping 18-yard drive crack the inside of Conor Winnn’s left hand post in the 33rd minute.
Any notions that the champions were beginning to build a head of steam proved unfounded as Galway continued to keep the home side at bay.
Dunne’s side bared their teeth as the first half drifted towards the break and they almost stunned the home crowd in the 42nd minute.
Ryan Connolly’s beautiful through ball set Jake Keegan away on the inside right with Sava having to beat his powerful drive away. Connolly himself then tested the Italian goalkeeper with a pop from distance just before the half-time whistle.
Galway had a penalty appeal waved away after five minutes of the restart after Gary Shanahan was sent tumbling by Stephen O’Donnell. It looked like the correct decision from referee, Tomas Connolly.
The visitors continued to grow in stature and Sava again came to Dundalk’s rescue, keeping another Keegan attempt out after the Galway striker breached the Lilywhites backline once more.
Kenny turned to the reinforcements on his bench with Daryl Horgan sent on just after the hour but Dundalk struggled to get into any sort of rhythm. The closest they came was from a Darren Meenan free-kick that just cleared the crossbar.
The game came to life as it approached the final ten minutes and both sides had opportunities to pull ahead.
Daryl Horgan bobbed past a couple of challenges on the 18-yard line before driving a blistering half volley against Winn’s post.
Play then switched to the other end and Andy Boyle had to make a fantastic last ditch block to stop Gary Shanahan from sweeping the ball home from close range.
Dundalk: Gabriel Sava; John Mountney (Sean Gannon HT), Paddy Barrett, Andy Boyle, Shane Grimes; Chris Shields, Stephen O’Donnell; Darren Meenan, Ronan Finn (David McMillan 77), Sean Maguire (Daryl Horgan 61); Ciaran Kilduff.
Galway United: Conor Winn; Colm Horgan, Stephen Walsh, Sam Oji, Marc Ludden; Paul Sinnott, Dave O’Leary; Gary Shanahan, Ryan Connolly, Tomi Saarelma (Conor Melody 87); Jake Keegan.
Referee: Tomas Connolly.