Kurtis Byrne’s fifth league goal of the season was all that separated Dundalk and Bray at Oriel Park as the home side ran out 1-0 winners, a result that keeps Dundalk very much still in the title race, while dragging the visitors into the relegation mire in the Airtricity League Premier Division.
Richie Towell’s classy clipped effort ended up just past the post as the Lilywhites began to settle into the free-flowing groove that has made them such a joy to watch this season, but they would find it tough to break down a Bray side who have enjoyed success on the road, losing just one of their past five away from the Carlisle Grounds.
In that time, they have also scored an impressive 14 goals on the road and ten minutes before the half-time whistle they came close to making it 15 when Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters found space just outside the Dundalk penalty area and curled an effort against the crossbar.
Stephen Kenny’s men were not out of the woods yet though, as the lively 23-year-old collected the resulting loose ball and evaded a challenge inside the area, but could only crash his low strike against the upright.
It was Dundalk who came out after the break with more intent, and were instantly rewarded for their efforts when a sublime pass from Hoban put Byrne bearing down on goal, and he made no mistake as his powerful drive sailed into the corner, despite Quigley’s best efforts to keep it out just three minutes after the break.
Following the goal, Dundalk began to dictate the tempo of the play and allowed the Seagulls to see very little of the ball with ambitious volleys from distance by Stephen O’Donnell and Jordan Keegan being the only real chances in 20 minutes that came after the former Hibs man’s goal.
A Waters cross found Dean Zambra inside the area and he did very well to direct a vicious volley goalward and was unlucky to see it fly just wide of the post.
They were to work Cherrie in the closing stages though, when Jason Byrne fired in a worrisome crack at goal, but the goalkeeper flew to his left, palming the ball behind his goal as the hosts hung on for a crucial three points.
Dundalk: Cherrie; Rossiter (Sullivan 59), Boyle, Gartland, Shields; Meenan, Towell, O’Donnell, Keegan (Dillon 70); Byrne (McCaffrey 79), Hoban.
Bray Wanderers: Quigley, Hyland, Webster, Early, Cooney, Zambra, O’Connor, Dempsey, Waters, Akinade (O’Leary 78), Byrne (C).
Referee: Paul Tuite.