A win tonight secured a fifth League of Ireland Premier Division title for Dundalk in six season with four games still to play in the league in what turned out to be a dramatic encounter against nearest challengers Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park tonight.
The home side took the lead after 28 minutes. Michael Duffy delivered a terrific corner-kick into the visitors’ six yard box with Seán Hoare powering a header to the back of the net, though Rovers’ defender Lopes and Grace would be disappointed that Hoare had so much space so close to goal.
It appeared as if Dundalk were going to cruise to the title on the night when Robbie Benson put them 2-0 up on the stroke of half-time.
An early ball into the box and Benson arrived to stick an unstoppable header past Mannus in the Rovers goal. It was a great ball in from McEleney on the left and Benson got ahead of Lafferty to nod the ball home.
Going in 2-0 up at the interval meant that The Lilywhites had gone an incredible seven-and-a-half league matches without conceding a goal.
That was soon to change however when Aaron Greene scored 10 minutes into the second-half. Out of nowhere, Sean Kavanagh spotted the run of Greene into space and the striker made no mistake as he hit it early past Rogers who was quickly advancing from his goal.
Dundalk responded strongly however as McEleney fed man-of-the-match and arguably man-of-the-season Duffy who was rushing through the middle to score one of the goals of the season to effectively seal the game. He kept his head down and smashed the ball into the net from 25 yards into the top right corner giving Mannus no chance.
The Hoops pulled a goal back again on 64 minutes when a poor clearance went to Graham Burke who found Aaron McEneff on the edge of the box. He cut inside and slid the ball into the far corner of the net.
There was some uncharacteristically sloppy defending from both sides on the night and Rovers had a few chances to equalize late on but that was to be the end of the scoring on the night. Dundalk deservedly league champions yet again, 15 points clear of second placed Shamrock Rovers with four games left to play leaves little room for argument as to who is the best team in the country.
Both clubs now look to the FAI Cup semi-finals this coming weekend. Dundalk play Sligo Rovers on Sunday, while Shamrock Rovers face fierce Dublin rivals Bohemians on Friday night to decide who’ll play the showpiece match of the season at the Aviva Stadium on November 3rd with Dundalk now having completed two legs of a potential domestic treble.