McEleney strikes at death to keep Dundalk on track
Dundalk 3 Wexford Youths 2
Published 30/05/2016 | 02:30
If Dundalk go on and win a third successive league title, they will no doubt look back on Patrick McEleney's 93rd-minute winner against Wexford Youths as one of the decisive moments.
Games at Oriel Park this season have been tight, often drab affairs, but this was anything but. Wexford, quite bravely, opted to fight fire with fire and it made for a cracking affair that the visitors did not deserve to lose.
There was a carnival atmosphere at the Louth venue before a ball had even been kicked with Dundalk's Family Fun Day promotion enhanced by the return from Brighton of former hero Richie Towell, who collected a spate of honours at half-time for his part in the club's double-winning season last year.
After featuring on the bench for Ireland in Friday night's friendly with Holland, Gary Rogers returned to the bread and butter of domestic football but he was beaten in the 12th minute when Paul Murphy took control and let fly from 25 yards.
The champions restored parity in the 24th minute. Ronan Finn's cross sought out David McMillan and when his diving header was blocked, the ball fell perfectly for Daryl Horgan to steer home.
Eric Molloy stunned the home crowd into silence in the 57th minute when he brushed Darren Meenan off the ball way too easily before shooting under the legs of Rogers.
Meenan, however, atoned for the error in the 76th minute when he curled a vicious corner past Graham Doyle from the left.
It looked like the points would be shared but substitute McEleney took control of a quick Ronan Finn free-kick to slot the ball home and maintain Dundalk's four-point lead over Cork City at the top.
The top two teams, incidentally, meet again on Friday at Turner's Cross.
Dundalk - Rogers; Gannon (O'Donnell 74), Gartland, Boyle, Massey; Benson (McEleney 64), Shields; Mountney (Meenan ht), Finn, Horgan; McMillan.
Wexford Youths - Doyle; McCabe, Delaney, Last, Friel; Molloy, Kenny, Bonner, Mulligan;
Dunne (Furlong 88); Murphy (G Delaney 88).
Ref - N Doyle.