An early James Ryan goal proved to be enough as Dynamo Town scraped past a visiting Gracefield side that had plenty of chances but took none and the hosts held on for a hard-fought win at The Leisure Centre Grounds on Sunday afternoon.
With a healthy lead at the head of the Division 2 table, Gracefield would have been one of the strong favourites for the Denis Delaney Cup this year but they arrived in Portlaoise under no illusions about the task in store. One of their few defeats of the season came at the hands of Liamie Marum’s side in Portarlington last September, and it didn’t take long for Dynamo to hit the front here again.
There seemed to be little danger when in the sixth minute Town won a throw in on the left hand side but James Ryan had other ideas. Brian McCormack’s long ball in was flicked on by one of the smallest men in the field in Dave Brophy and Ryan was on hand to sidefoot the dropping ball past Gracefield stopper John Knight to fire his side into an early lead.
It was far from one way traffic however with Gracefield forging out a couple of good chances in a lively opening half. Eoghan Gleeson had the clearest early opportunity when a superb Robbie Knight ball over the top was taken down by Gleeson but his neat effort on the turn drifted just wide of the far left hand corner.
But while both sides continued to battle, it was referee Eddie O’Riordan who was perhaps the busiest man on the park. With a couple of reckless tackles and plenty of dissent in their aftermath, the Offaly official was forced to brandish four yellow cards in the last twenty minutes of the first half as he managed to keep the game under control.
Dynamo went in at the break leading by that early James Ryan strike but Gracefield improved in the second half and were it not for some poor finishing and excellent Town defending they would have easily clawed their way back into the tie. Half time sub Mick Wilcox set the tone when he forced Dynamo keeper Daire Phelan into a smart save with a 30-yard strike immediately after the tip-off, and the away side created plenty more after that.
A Stephen Slattery sliderule pass five minutes later sent Eamon Kelly through on goal but the usually ruthless striker was foiled yet again by the impressive Phelan in goals. And shortly afterwards Kelly turned provider as his beautifully weighted cross was met on the edge of the area by Eoghan Gleeson whose fierce half-volley flew over the bar with only whiskers in it.
Dynamo were on the back foot but they too managed to manufacture a couple of half-chances without ever really troubling John Knight between the Gracefield sticks.
The back four of Dynamo were proving impenetrable at the other end but they should have been beaten with just over ten minutes to go. Mick Wilcox and Eoghan Gleeson combined well down the left wing and when Gleeson’s sweeping cross was met by Eamon Kelly, the equaliser looked a dead cert. However, the ball fell at and awkward height for the inrushing Kelly who could only bundle the ball over the crossbar.
Once that chance went amiss the writing was on the wall for Gracefield. Dynamo had soaked up everything they could throw at them and it was just one of those days for the visitors. Town took their chance and held on for a win that their determination and battling spirit just about deserved, and they will fear no-one as they look to add the Denis Delaney Cup to their cabinet.
Star Man - John Breen (Dynamo Town)
On a day when the home defence was under a barrage of pressure, any one of the four Dynamo defenders could easily have taken this. Leon McDonald and Brian McCormack won’t come up against trickier wingers all season, but the central defenders were excellent, coping with the lively Eamon Kelly and the aerial threat of Mick Wilcox after the break. John Breen just about shades it ahead of fellow centre half Liamie Marum. Others to impress were Dave Brophy for Town and Gracefield’s Richie Porter and Robbie Knight.
DYNAMO TOWN: Daire Phelan, Leon McDonald, Brian McCormack (Joe Brophy ’86), John Breen, Liamie Marum, Alan Bell, Philip Scully, Tommy Scully, James Ryan, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Dave Brophy.
GRACEFIELD: John Knight, David Cox, Stephen Flanagan, Richie Porter, Johnny Keogh (John Lawrence ’85), Tommy Doyle (Lee Bryan ’67), Eoghan Gleeson (Ciaran Wilmot ’87), Robbie Knight, Stephen Slattery, Jack Cunningham (Mick Wilcox ’45), Eamon Kelly (Pierce Mitchell ’78).
Referee: Eddie O’Riordan