Too little too late for Fenlon's men
Bohemians 3 Dundalk 1
WHILE the banner behind one of the goals at Dalymount Park last night hardly inspired confidence prior to kick-off, it unfortunately spoke a thousand truths by the evening's end.
"End of an era. Thanks lads," it proclaimed.
For a few fleeting moments, it seemed this most enthralling of title races was destined to take another incredible turn in favour of the three-in-a-row chasing Gypsies.
Pat Fenlon's men produced a couple of late goals last night to lift spirits, but it was a case of too little too late and Shamrock Rovers' draw meant Bohs' hopes of a third successive title went up in smoke.
Fenlon and his men will wake up this morning, if they slept at all, with a lot to ponder -- that defeat at Galway United eight days ago, that most feeble of European exits at the hands of Welsh side TNS, but more crucially, a sense of doubt over their footballing futures.
For a club already in the financial mire, ending a season that promised so much without a league or FAI Cup trophy is nothing short of disastrous.
Now, huge cuts are expected. Fenlon has already been quoted as saying his whole back-room staff will be forced to depart, although he himself vowed to stay on in the programme notes.
But what of his players, who brought so much success to this club in recent years?
Part-time football is unlikely to be on the agenda for the more high-profile stars of this squad. And that is the prospect facing the club, with Fenlon admitting that he may have to go with a squad of "young lads" next year.
Amateur football was even mooted at a members' meeting during the year.
The hard work starts here for the back-room staff of this famous old club, while it appears to have ended here for most of the players, in the most disappointing of fashions.
The disappointment in the Bohs dressing-room will have been compounded by the fact that Rovers only drew -- meaning that had the Gypsies won by five goals, the title would have been theirs.
And the hosts could have been four up by the 20-minute mark.
Paddy Madden divides opinions amongst the Phibsboro faithful. The young striker finished joint top of Bohs' league goalscoring charts, notching his 11th last night.
But it is often argued that those goals are outweighed by the number of gilt-edged opportunities he spurns.
So it proved last night as he opened the scoring with a stupendous effort, after Killian Brennan's delicious chip was flicked by Gareth McGlynn off Dundalk defender Garry Breen on 12 minutes.
Yet he still drew more ire from the packed Jodi Stand than praise. With three minutes gone, he should have opened the scoring but fired straight at Peter Cherrie, before squandering another glorious chance four minutes after he sent ripples through the net.
Earlier, too, Brennan had come within inches of a spectacular goal from the half-way line.
And they were made to rue those missed chances as Fahrudin Kuduzovic produced a shock equaliser with a bullet of a header on 66 minutes from Simon Madden's cross.
There was life in the old dog yet but by the time Aaron Greene tucked away a second on 90 minutes and Jason Byrne stroked home a penalty a minute later, it just wasn't enough.
It went down to the wire, but the night belonged to Rovers and as their rise to glory continues, the story couldn't be more different at the home of their fiercest rivals.
BOHEMIANS -- Murphy, Heary, Shelley, Oman, Powell; Byrne, Keegan, McGlynn, P Brennan; Byrne, Cretaro (Greene 65).
DUNDALK -- Cherrie, S Madden, Breen, Burns, Hatswell; Maher (Lennon 71), Bennett, Miller, Kearns; Kuduzovic, Tipton (J Breen 90).
REF -- D Hanney (Dublin)