Shamrock Rovers 1-1 Dundalk
Dundalk are the 2015 SSE Airtricity League Premier Division Champions after a 1-1 draw with Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght stadium saw the Lilywhites retain their title.
It wasn't a vintage Dundalk performance and it took a late penalty from Richie Towell to secure a draw but with second-placed Cork being held in Drogheda, a point was enough for Stephen Kenny's to be crowned champions.
The visitors arrived at Tallaght facing a Rovers team eager to spoil their party and for most of the game it appeared as it that was what would happen.
The Hoops frustrated Dundalk for much of the first half and took just a minute after the restart when Danny North found the net to finish off a swift breakaway move.
However, the Louth side were not to be denied and when Rovers midfielder Pat Cregg clumsily bundled Darren Meenan to the ground inside the penalty area the referee pointed to the spot.
Towell was tasked with scoring the goal that would guarantee Dundalk left Dublin as champions and he duly obliged, sending Barry Murphy the wrong way from the spot and sending the travelling fans into raptures.
Speaking in the build-up to the game, Kenny did his best to play down the hype surrounding the fixture which presented him with the opportunity of retaining the title against the club which dispensed of his services in 2012.
However the significance of winning the title on Rovers’ home patch was not lost on the people of Dundalk as over 800 supporters made the journey from the border town, eager to see their side confirmed champions.
The black and white on display from the visiting fans was supplemented by around 300 shell-shocked German fans who used the Euro 2016 qualifier as a chance to take in a League of Ireland game.
Having suffered just one league defeat at Tallaght all season, Rovers provided a stiff test and 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.
Kenny’s title chasers settled to the task and Daryl Horgan cut in from the left to curl an effort goalwards but it was meat and drink for Barry Murphy.
Twelve minutes had elapsed when 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.
Mikey Drennan flashed a half volley over the top from David O’Connor’s cross and Rovers continued to look inventive with Drennan heading an effort wide of the target on the half hour.
Just 20 seconds of the second half had elapsed when the deadlock was broken. Brandon Miele left 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.
Far from being rocked, that goal appeared to give Dundalk a boost and after they took time to blow off the cobwebs they upped the tempo with O’Donnell coming within a whisker of getting his head to Finn’s deflected cross in the 63rd minute.
As word filtered through that Cork City we being held by Drogheda, the Dundalk faithful knew that a point would be enough and the pivotal moment arrived in the 83rd minute. Cregg rather needlessly charged into the back of Meenan from Massey’s throw in, and referee Padraig Sutton had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
The decision looked harsh initially but replays appeared to vindicate the referee's decision 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 supporters crazy.
There was still time for some late drama with Simon Madden opting to stay on his feet after going past Massey in the penalty area. The Rovers player’s honesty probably costing his side a spot kick.
The full-time whistle blew with attention turning to events at United Park in Drogheda and after an agonising wait, the celebrations began with Dundalk crowned worthy champions.
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.