Monday 21 January 2019

CHAMPIONS - Dundalk retain their title in Tallaght

Dundalk 1 Shamrock Rovers 1

Dundalk players celebrate their victory and championship title.
Dundalk players celebrate their victory and championship title.
Richie Towell celebrates with team-mates after scoring a penalty to equalise for his team. SSE Airtricity League,

If Thursday night’s outcome at The Aviva Stadium had the whole country jumping, then last night’s results in Tallaght and Drogheda left the town of Dundalk in meltdown as Stephen Kenny’s side were crowned champions again.

Richie Towell’s 84th minute penalty - his 22nd goal of the season - coupled with Cork City’s 1-1 draw against Dundalk’s Louth rivals, Drogheda United, confirmed the Lilywhites as worthy league winners for the 11th time in their history.

Speaking in the build up to the game, Dundalk manager Kenny did his best to dampen the hype surrounding the fixture which presented his side with the opportunity of retaining their league crown against the club which dispensed of his services in 2012.

However the significance of securing first ever back to back titles at the home of their historic rivals was not lost on the people of Dundalk as over 800 supporters made the journey from the border town to urge their team over the line.

The task facing Dundalk was far from straightforward. Rovers came into the game having suffered just one league defeat at home and they started on the front foot with Stephen O’Donnell having to intervene to cut out a Gavin Brennan cross after less than two minutes.

Dundalk warmed to the task and  Ronan Finn, a league winner with Rovers in 2011, was denied by a last gasp tackle from Maxime Blanchard after being picked out by a cute Darren Meenan pass inside the penalty area.

Things began to heat up as the game drifted past the quarter hour mark with Rovers’ Danny North and Dundalk skipper, Stephen O’Donnell booked in quick succession. And from the free-kick that followed the O’Donnell caution, Mikey Drennan flashed a half volley over the top from David O’Connor’s cross.

Pat Fenlon’s Rovers continued to look inventive and Drennan showed great reactions to meet Brandon Miele’s fizzing cross with his head only to see the effort go wide of the target on the half hour. A lively first half ended with the sides scoreless.

Just 20 seconds of the second half had elapsed when the deadlock was broken. Brandon Miele left Chris Shields in his wake to latch onto Drennan’s brilliant pass and although Rogers did enough to block the shot, North was on hand to tap home the loose ball.

The Lilywhites upped the tempo with Stephen O’Donnell coming within a whisker of getting his head to Finn’s deflected shot in the 63rd minute.

With Cork City being held on Boyneside, Dundalk supporters knew that a point could be enough and a golden opportunity to pull level arrived with 13 minutes left to play. O’Donnell, again, was the instigator, his lay off allowing Massey to drive a ball across the face of goal but Finn’s touch cleared the bar.

The pivotal moment arrived in the 83rd minute.  Patrick Cregg crashed into Meenan from Massey’s throw in, resulting in Padraig Sutton pointing to the spot and when the fuss died down, Towell showed remarkable composure to send Murphy the wrong way from the spot, sending the Dundalk bench and their support crazy.

The full time whistle blew with attention turning to events at United Park in Drogheda and after an agonising wait, the celebrations began, Kenny’s brilliant side crowned worthy champions.

Speaking afterwards, Kenny hailed the performances of his players over the course of the season.

“It has been a tremendous effort by the players. It wasn’t our best performance by any stretch of the imagination but it’s over the course of a whole season and we were utterly dominant.

The result secures Dundalk back to back titles for the first time in the club’s history.

“This club was on its knees for seven years in the First Division and had they been relegated in the play-off in 2012, nobody would have

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Murphy; Madden, Blanchard, Webster, O’Connor; G Brennan, McCabe, Cregg, Miele; Drennan, North (R Brennan 80).

DUNDALK: Rogers; Shields, Barrett, Boyle, Massey,  Towell, O’Donnell;  Meenan, Finn (Byrne 83), Horgan (Mountney 61); McMillan (Kilduff 65).

REFEREE: Padraig Sutton.

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