Dundalk 2-1 Bohemians
DUNDALK HAVE RETAINED the SSE Airtricity League title after goals in either half from centre backs Andy Boyle and Brian Gartland secured a 2-1 victory over Bohemians and the championship with two games to spare.
The win saw Stephen Kenny’s record breakers move seven points clear of nearest challengers Cork with both sides having to play twice more ahead of the season finale this coming Friday.
A third league title under Kenny’s stewardship is theirs – and in truth, it was a formality. Had it not been sealed tonight, Ireland’s best side would have got over the line the next day.
Expectations were high at Oriel Park that the Dundalk would seal their third league title in a row – and 12th in total – against Bohemians. The visitors turned up knowing the champagne was on ice, and intending to keep it there. That said, their resistance didn’t last long.
Top scorer David McMillan’s header forced Shane Supple into a save before Ronan Finn’s shot was deflected wide. From the corner, captain for the night Boyle poked home from Patrick McEleney’s corner.
The delivery went over the entire population of a crowded penalty area and sat nicely for Boyle to net his third goal of the season – and first since May.
With just 15 minutes played, the Oriel Park party was in full swing and McMillan tested Supple moments later but the Bohs stopper saved easily.
After that, came a lull as Bohs dealt well with the Lilywhites advances into opposition territory. They were handed an opportunity to capitalise on that just before the half hour.
Keith Buckley went down under a supposed challenge from Ronan Finn and referee Neil Doyle pointed immediately to the spot. Television replays showed conclusively that Buckley had thrown himself to ground having suffered no contact from Finn whatsoever.
Mark Quigley stepped up and the one-time Dundalk striker stuck his effort right in the corner, leaving the recalled Gary Rogers with no chance. Whilst defender Boyle struck his third of the campaign 14 minutes earlier, that was just Quigley’s second of a frustrating 2016.
Before the break, Finn shot over when played in by McMillan and shortly after it Horgan got his header wrong when free in the area. At the other end, O’Halloran tried to flick in Kurtis Byrne’s cross but he didn’t quite have the execution to match the idea.
After Supple was forced to tip Daryl Horgan’s cross onto the bar, Robbie Benson teed himself up for a bicycle kick that went narrowly wide. However by 63 minutes, it was 2-1.
Ronan Finn’s free-kick on half way was directed to Dane Massey on the left-hand side of the area and his header across the face of the goal was met by Gartland who nodded in from close range.
In contrast to his defensive partner Boyle, that was Gartland’s seventh league goal of another prolific campaign from centre back. He surely would have had more had it not been for his wrist injury mid-season.
They were hardly going to be comparing goal tallies in the aftermath of this one. Together, the duo have now won six major trophies at Dundalk. For Gartland, this is the second time in three years that he’s scored on title winning nights at Oriel. He’s developing a knack for it.
As are Dundalk for winning league titles. This is their third-in-a-row and 12th in total. For Stephen Kenny, it’s a fourth as a manager. Being the best once is an achievement, twice is something special, three times is a testament to he and his players.
Amidst an exhaustive fixture list, a historic European adventure, a domestic cup run and an improved challenge from Cork City, winning the title for a third straight season must bring the sweetest feeling yet.
DUNDALK: Gary Rogers, Alan Keane, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey, Chris Shields, Ronan Finn, John Mountney (Robbie Benson, 55), Patrick McEleney (Darren Meenan, 71), Daryl Horgan, David McMillan (Ciaran Kilduff, 81).
BOHEMIANS: Shane Supple, Derek Pender, Derek Prendergast, Dan Byrne, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Roberto Lopes, Keith Buckley, Patrick Kavanagh, Mark Quigley (Dean Casey, 83), Dean O’Halloran (Eoin Wearen, 71), Kurtis Byrne.
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin)
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