Rovers secure draw with Dundalk

Sligo Rovers and Dundalk started their respective campaigns with a point a piece after both sides played out a draw at the Showgrounds.

Patrick McEleney made the most of a mistake in the Bit O’Red rearguard early on, but Sligo recovered well and secured a deserved point courtesy of Romeo Parkes leveller mid-way through the opening half.

It was the visitors who began this encounter on the front foot, offering the superior purpose going forward in comparison to a sluggish Sligo start.

Rovers boss Liam Buckley handed six debuts to his winter signings and it was one of those recent additions Greg Bolger who was involved in Dundalk’s opener on the quarter hour.

A mx up between the ex-Shamrock Rovers general and goalkeeper Ed McGinty was pounced on by McEleney. The attacker making the most of the young goalkeeper’s indecisiveness as he cut out McGinty’s pass towards Bolger before firing home.

Rovers shook off their opening night jitters and it was 17-year-old Johnny Kenny who carved out their first opportunity of the evening.

Son of the Rovers legend of the same name, the young striker made the most of a Sonni Nattesad slip on 21 minutes. But was unfortunate to drag his resulting effort past the far post.

The hosts, who haven’t won a league opener since 2014 had their equaliser just 60 seconds later.

Parkes marking his return from a loan spell in the US as he nodded Robbie McCourt’s whipped free from the left past Dundalk net minder Alessio Abibi.

The width of the post then made the different on 33 minutes when a marauding run from Parkes saw him skip his way past several Dundalk challenges.

The Jamaican slotting the ball into the path of Jordan Gibson who could only look on in agony as his deft chip bounced off Abibi’s post.

Disaster almost struck Sligo again before the break when McGinty misjudged the flight of the ball outside his area.

However Hoban was unable to turn Junior’s squared ball from the end line with McGinty scrambling to get back into position.

Both camps went close early in the second period with Cameron Dummigan and another Sligo new boy Walter Figueira producing efforts from distance.

It was then the turn of Shane Keegan’s charges to strike woodwork. Hoban’s looping header had McGinty well beat but not the frame of the goal as his effort ricocheted off the post and back into the arms of the grateful keeper.

McGinty was at full stretch on 73 minutes as he watched substitute Michael Duffy’s 20 yard drive drift past his post as Dundalk again strengthened their grip on proceedings.

However, the tide turned in Sligo’s favour once more and the Connaught men went close again through the impressive Gibson.

The ex-Pat’s winger was involved again seven minutes from time but the stretch was an effort too far for Kenny who couldn’t connect with Gibson’s cross to the back post.

Now on the back foot, Dundalk had to rely on Abibi to close down and block Kenny’s shot on 85 minutes while Mark Byrne had a goal disallowed at the death.

Sligo Rovers: Ed McGinty; Colm Horgan, John Mahon, Garry Buckley, Robbie McCourt; Niall Morahan, Greg Bolger; Jordan Gibson, Romeo Parkes (Mark Byrne 72); Walter Figueira (David Cawley 72); Johnny Kenny.

Dundalk: Alessio Abibi; Andy Boyle, Sonni Nattesad, Dan Cleary; Raivis Jurkovskis, Cameron Dummigan; Chris Shields, Greg Sloggett; Patrick McEleney (Sam Stanton 69); Junior (Michael Duffy 69), Pat Hoban.

Referee: Neil Doyle