Letterkenny Rovers recorded yet another impressive result when they earned an FAI Cup 2nd round replay at Athlone Town on Saturday night.
Athlone Town 0
Letterkenny Rovers 0
A week can be a long time in football and so it proved for Rovers who forced a well deserved replay at Leckview Park on Tuesday evening.
Rovers had been licking their wounds after a heavy defeat to Crumlin United in the FAI Intermediate Cup final at the Aviva. However, they showed true grit and determination to put on a display which on another night may have caused a cup upset. In the end however, the draw was probably a fair result.
The game was played under the backdrop of some unrest within the Athlone supporters with some of their fans holding a boycott to express their disapproval at the board's handling of the club.
But that did not affect matters on the pitch between two sides who liked to get the ball down and play good football on what was a decent surface.
Athlone started the brighter but created very little of note with a Conor Barry header which was well wide on 5 minutes, the nearest they came to scoring.
It was Rovers who bossed the remainder of the first half and Steve Okakpo-Emeka had the first real chance on 26 minutes as his long range effort almost caught Athlone keeper Ryan Coulter unawares as he was forced to palm it out for a corner.
If that was a speculative effort from Okakpo-Emeka he had the best chance of the opening period. He should have scored on 36 minutes but blazed over when well placed after some neat approach play by man of the match Paul McVeigh and Darren McElwaine.
Rovers were dominant in all areas of the field in what was a changed defensive make-up with Tristan Ferris and Terence Shiels coming into the backline in place of Shane Bradley and Jonathan Minnock. The defence was further shook up as Ryan Lonergan was forced to come off injured on 23 minutes to be replaced by Kevin McGrath with David Shovlin moving to right back.
Eamonn McConigleys men were comfortable at the break but the hosts were always going to have a period of dominance and they certainly improved in the second period. Yet they did not test Rory Kelly in the Rovers goal until the 63rd minute when the Midlanders captain Daniel Purdy forced a routine save.
Purdy again was just wide from a free kick and with Rovers beginning to tire it always looked like just the one goal would settle the contest.
That chance to win the tie fell to Mario Chindea on 74 minutes when he was set free by Val Feeney and the lively Romanian rounded Rory Kelly but his goalbound shot was somehow cleared off the line by the retreating David Shovlin.
Rovers were battling superbly and kept their discipline well. They were putting bodies on the line and caused a few problems for the Athlone rearguard on the counter with Mark Forker and Okakpo-Emeka both having chances.
That said, Chindea could have broken the Donegal team's hearts when he fired wide deep deep into stoppage time from a good position.
Letterkenny will be glad to get Athlone back to their home patch for a replay but will know it will take another huge effort if they are to be in Round 3.
But it was a fantastic response from the cup final defeat in Ballsbridge just a week earlier.
Athlone Town: Ryan Coulter, Simon Dixon, Ian Fletcher, Kevin Farragher, Jack Tuite, Val Feeney, Mario Chindea, Alan O'Sullivan, Daniel Purdy, Conor Barry (Emeka Onwubiko 51), Adam Kelly (David Cassidy 84).
Letterkenny Rovers: Rory Kelly, Ryan Lonergan (Kevin McGrath 23), Terence Shiels, Paul Boyle, Tristan Ferris, Steve Okakpo-Emeka (Brian McVeigh 85), Paul McVeigh, Christy Connaghan, Darren McElwaine, Mark Forker, David Shovlin.
Referee: John McLoughlin.