Dundalk and Linfield have drawn 1-1 at Windsor Park in the first leg of the new Unite the Union Champions Cup.
Shayne Lavery gave Linfield the lead on a cold night in Belfast, but Daniel Kelly drew Dundalk level to leave it all to play for in the second leg at Oriel Park on Monday.
The Lilywhites made seven changes to the team which lost on penalties to Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Cup final, while hosts Linfield made two changes from their win over Carrick Rovers.
2,819 fans braved the cold to watch the inaugural Champions Cup, and those inside the stadium were treated to an early goal.
Jamie Mulgrew played Lavery through, and the Northern Ireland international danced past Dundalk centre halves Andy Boyle and Sean Hoare before rifling an excellent strike past Gary Rogers into the bottom corner.
Jordan Flores – who was relieved that Linfield failed to punish his errant pass shortly after their opener – curled an effort narrowly wide at the other end as Vinny Perth’s men sought an instant response.
Boyle’s header was tipped on to the crossbar by Linfield ‘keeper Gareth Deane on the half hour mark after Jamie McGrath’s improvised flick found the defender from John Mountney’s corner.
The Danske Bank Premiership champions had a great chance to double their lead before the interval.
Joel Cooper smashed a shot into the side netting for the hosts after a good pass by Matthew Clarke.
Linfield led 1-0 at the interval, but SSE Airtricity League champions made a strong start to the second half.
Flores flashed another effort wide before Perth’s visitors drew level in the 51st minute.
Dundalk also announced the signing of Derry City’s Greg Sloggett before kick off at Windsor Park.
Kelly finished calmly past Deane after Patrick Hoban’s deft through ball in behind the Linfield defence. It was Kelly’s 15th goal of the season, and Dundalk’s 100th in all competitions.
— Dundalk FC (@DundalkFC) November 9, 2019
Michael Duffy and Sean Gannon came off the bench as Dundalk went in search of a winner.
Hoban almost headed Dundalk into the lead 25 minutes from time, but just failed to reach Kelly’s searching cross.
Georgie Kelly was then denied by some last-ditch Linfield defending in the dying seconds.
There were few chances in the closing stages, leaving the tie delicately poised ahead of the return leg in Louth.
Linfield: Gareth Deane; Mark Stafford, Matthew Clarke, Stephen Fallon (Andrew Mitchell 86), Niall Quinn; Bastien Hery, Jimmy Callacher, Kirk Millar, Joel Cooper (Andy Waterworth 65), Jamie Mulgrew (capt); Shayne Lavery.
Substitutes not used: Ronan Ferguson (GK), Joshua Robertson, Matthew Shevlin, Daniel Reynolds, Chris Casement.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Cameron Dummigan (Sean Gannon 63), Sean Hoare, Andy Boyle, Dean Jarvis; Chris Shields, Jordan Flores; John Mountney (Michael Duffy 58), Jamie McGrath, Daniel Kelly; Patrick Hoban (capt) (Georgie Kelly 81)
Substitutes not used: Aaron McCarey (GK), Brian Gartland, Robbie Benson, Dane Massey.