Friday 20 April 2018

Kenny joy as Dundalk secure title in Tallaght

Shamrock Rovers 1 Dundalk 1

Dundalk players celebrate their victory and championship title.
Dundalk players celebrate their victory and championship title.
Dundalk captain Stephen O'Donnell leads his team out before the start of the match

Gavin McLaughlin

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 Drogheda United - confirmed the Lilywhites as league winners for the 11th time in their history.

Speaking in the build-up, 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 back-to-back titles for the first time 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.

Stephen Kenny and Richie Towell celebrate after Dundalk’s title-clinching draw in Tallaght
Stephen Kenny and Richie Towell celebrate after Dundalk’s title-clinching draw in Tallaght

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, with Rovers' Danny North and Dundalk skipper 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 bar.

Pat Fenlon's Rovers continued to look inventive and Drennan showed great reactions to get his head to Brandon Miele's fizzing cross, only to see the effort go wide.

Just 20 seconds of the second half had elapsed when the deadlock was broken.

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 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 Dean 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 referee Padraig Sutton pointing to the spot and when the fuss died down, Towell showed remarkable composure to send Barry Murphy the wrong way from the spot, sending the Dundalk bench and their support crazy.


When the full-time whistle blew, attention turned 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," he said.

"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 really shed any tears, but now the club are back-to-back champions, back in the Champions League qualifiers and it's great testament to everybody involved."

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).

REF - P Sutton.


Irish Independent

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