Molloy strikes late as Bohs fluff lines
Galway United 3 Bohemians 2
REMARKABLE, simply remarkable. Just when it looked as though Bohemians had been handed a third successive League of Ireland title by a dramatic Shamrock Rovers collapse, they came to Galway and did their best Devon Loch impression.
At the full-time whistle, Galway boss Sean Connor leapt like a man with the winning docket. Three years after leaving Dalymount, he returned to haunt his former employers once again.
Now, it's Rovers who stand to capitalise, with a two-point lead and superior goal difference heading into next Friday's final round of games. They travel to Bray while Bohs will somehow have to regroup and host Dundalk.
In the meantime, they must ask themselves why they capitulated so spectacularly against a threadbare Galway selection.
The Bohs camp were confident they had the experience to cope with the pressure. Alas, they were bereft of the assurance that is supposed to come with that commodity. Pat Fenlon felt his team didn't work hard enough, with left-back Conor Powell the only player to escape his post-match criticism.
His centre-halves Brian Shelley and Ken Oman were tormented by a 22-year-old striker named Jason Molloy who was central to all three goals, with his last-minute strike securing a famous win and red-carpet treatment on future visits to Tallaght.
Bohs have a dire record against Galway this term -- they have taken just one point from a possible 12 against the relegation play-off bound Corribsiders.
A large travelling crowd from Dublin was met with a paltry home support, and Connor was also without the influential Stephen O'Donnell and Karl Sheppard.
Yet, from the outset, it was clear that a turbulent evening lay ahead for the title-chasers. Galway started with just one up front and five in midfield, perhaps looking to replicate what Sligo achieved in Dalymount last Friday.
Lone striker Molloy was buzzing around with intent, earning the penalty that put the men in maroon ahead. He left Oman in a spin just inside the area, nutmegging the Bohs defender who blocked the path to goal illegally. Derek O'Brien stylishly dispatched it.
The defending champions pressed immediately, but suffered blows with both Glenn Cronin and Barry Murphy forced off. Just as Cronin was replaced by Ruaidhri Higgins in the 24th minute, the Dubliners levelled, with Heary's menacing cross steered into the bottom corner by the head of the unmarked Paul Keegan.
Fenlon implored his players to push on, and Galway rode a brief storm. Yet to their credit, Connor's youths bounced back to regain the lead, with Molloy sharper than Shelley in chasing a hopeful punt, duly finding a way past sub 'keeper Chris O'Connor with the aid of a challenge from the backtracking Bohs defender.
They had a minute until half-time, but couldn't hold onto the advantage. Instead, they were undone by some Mark Quigley trickery, with the left winger outfoxing his marker Tom King whose trailing leg caught the 24-year-old. Ref Tom Connolly pointed to the spot, and Jason Byrne expertly did the rest.
Bohs failed to press on, however, and O'Connor was alert to save from King shortly after the resumption.
The Gypsies probed as time ticked down, but the nerves were apparent with passes misplaced and poor decisions in the final third. Keegan fired wildly over following a fine solo run, and then Galway netminder Barry Ryan bravely blocked Byrne's close-range jab. Quigley then combined with Byrne but lost his composure when it came to shooting.
Fenlon sent for Paddy Madden, while Connor introduced inexperienced fresh legs in a bid to keep the ship afloat.
News had filtered through that Shamrock Rovers were en route to victory in Tallaght, with a hush falling over the visiting throngs.
Bohs' urgency increased as the clock ticked past the 80th minute, with Madden fluffing a couple of chances. They weren't really penetrating enough, though, pumping balls into the danger-zone without any joy.
Connor encouraged his team to break and it paid dividends. A draw wasn't enough for Bohs to stay top, but they ended up with nothing after a purposeful run from Seamus Conneely teed up Molloy, who calmly stepped away from Oman and drilled home a goal of immense importance.
A stunning twist in a race packed with them. Bohemians need another one badly.
Galway United -- Ryan; King (N Keane 73), McKenzie, Sinnott (Kelly 45), Meynell; Reilly; J Keane, Conneely, Curran (D Sheppard 81), O'Brien; Molloy.
Bohemians -- Murphy (O'Connor 33), Heary, Shelley, Oman, Powell; McGlynn, Keegan, Cronin (Higgins 24), Quigley; Byrne, Cretaro (Madden 67).
Ref -- T Connolly (Dublin).