Dundalk 4-0 Bray Wanderers
The Oriel Park faithful saluted their all-conquering heroes tonight as Dundalk broke yet another record amidst scenes of jubilation at the border venue.
Dundalk started the game needing four goals to overhaul Shamrock Rovers’ 92-year-old total of 77 in a season and, fittingly, it was a late double from Richie Towell that smashed the record.
The win wrapped up an incredible league season for the Lilywhites. Twenty three wins from 33 played, nine draws and just a solitary defeat, illustrate just how good Stephen Kenny’s current crop of players are.
They will head to the Aviva Stadium next weekend looking to become the third team in the club’s history to win the league and FAI Cup double when they face a Cork City side who eventually finished ten points adrift at the champions.
“These players are special,” said Kenny. “In a football culture of pragmatism and win at all costs, it’s not the fact that this team has won back-to-back titles that has captured the public’s imagination. It's the way these players have won.
“All of the players have flourished and made a contribution and the sheer volume of goals scored - 109 to date - has been a joy to witness.
“We could never have envisaged winning the league so comfortably and we are excited about playing in the FAI Cup final next weekend.”
Just five minutes had elapsed before the party got into full swing. Darren Meenan hared away on the right and his cross was tapped home by Ciaran Kilduff.
Bray conceded eight in the corresponding fixture in May and there were real fears they were heading that way again when Daryl Horgan nipped in front of Michael Barker to make it 2-0 with ten minutes yet to be played.
Bray were cut apart again shortly after as Dundalk zipped the ball around on the left flank with Richie Towell setting up Ronan Finn for a drive that went just off target.
With the FAI Cup final just nine days away, Dundalk were given a major scare when captain Stephen O’Donnell headed down the tunnel after 24 minutes. The skipper was replaced by Chris Shields.
The home side continued to pour forward and a brilliant interchange between Kilduff and Towell should have yielded a third in the 38th minute, but Barker did enough to force the Lilywhites striker wide and block the effort at the expense of a corner.
Kilduff was instrumental again three minutes later, rising to cushion Brian Gartland’s pass into the path of Darren Meenan who saw his attempt blocked by Peter Cherrie - a title winner with Dundalk 12 months ago.
The second-half opened in a similar vein to the first with Horgan leaving Hugh Douglas in his wake to close in on goal but he scooped the ball over the top.
A second-half downpour failed to dampen the carnival atmosphere and the third goal arrived with ten minutes to go when Towell sent Peter Cherrie the wrong way from the penalty spot. And the star midfielder created history when he guided home his 25th goal of an incredible campaign for Dundalk in the last minute.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey; Richie Towell, Stephen O’Donnell (Chris Shields 24); Darren Meenan, Ronan Finn (John Mountney 61), Daryl Horgan; Ciaran Kilduff (David McMillan 71).
Bray Wanderers: Peter Cherrie; Michael Barker, Alan McNally, Niall Cooney; Hugh Douglas, Luke Fitzpatrick (John Sullivan HT), Ryan McEvoy, Graham Kelly, Adam Wixted (David Cassidy HT); Adam Hanlon, Chris Lyons (David Scully 64).
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.