Dun­dalk draw on some late joy to se­cure the ti­tle

Kenny’s side have proved them­selves wor­thy cham­pi­ons over a long sea­son

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Em­met Malone atOrielPark

Dun­dalk 1 Hoban 89

St Pa­trick’s Ath 1 Clif­ford 51

The points record they are chas­ing will be one for an­other day but Pat Hoban broke the Premier Di­vi­sion’s goalscor­ing one in the 90th minute here to se­cure the point Dun­dalk needed to be sure of the league ti­tle.

Never, ever can a draw have felt or been cel­e­brated more like a win.

The last time they came to Oriel Park St Pa­trick’s Ath­letic lost by five so it wasn’t as if the Dublin­ers didn’t know the ex­pected rou­tine.

The lo­cal fans ar­rived in large num­bers this time an­tic­i­pat­ing the sort of re­peat per­for­mance that would give a party feel to a night of cel­e­bra­tion.

But Pat’s ap­par­ently hadn’t read the script.

In­stead Dun­dalk’s for­mer player, Conor Clif­ford, gave the vis­i­tors the lead six min­utes into the sec­ond half and the crowd, like a throw­back in time, be­haved as though they didn’t know that Cork’s fail­ure to score in Tal­laght meant they would be crowned cham­pi­ons in any case.

Per­haps, it was a moral vic­tory sort of thing.

Dun­dalk had not been kept score­less here since the open­ing weeks of the cam­paign.

Low drive

Since then Hoban has run riot up and down the coun­try while those be­hind him have passed just about ev­ery team they have en­coun­tered off the pitch. Some­how it would not have been right to have ended with vic­tory in de­feat.

Hoban’s 26th league goal of the sea­son, a low drive right down the mid­dle af­ter he had been slipped through into space spared them that and Oriel Park went wild.

“It mat­ters. It mat­ters, of course,” said a eu­phoric Stephen Kenny from amid the cham­pagne soaked cel­e­bra­tions.

“To get the goal was fan­tas­tic. St Pat’s did a bit of a job on us af­ter the start we had, hit­ting the wood­work those cou­ple of times but we kept push­ing and Pat’s been get­ting a lot of late goals. He’s been fan­tas­tic for us this sea­son. And that was a great way to win it.”

Kenny may use the team’s re­main­ing three games to give some of his fringe play­ers game-time and with it the op­por­tu­nity to au­di­tion for a place on the bench at the cup fi­nal.

But those handed the task of tak­ing the club’s fi­nal step to the ti­tle here were the ones he had put his trust in through­out the cam­paign, 10 of the 12 with the most starts – Sean Hoare and Jamie McGrath were in­jured – plus Pat McEleney who has fea­tured ev­ery time since re­turn­ing from Eng­land.

There was drama early on when Dun­dalk hit the wood­work twice in the mat­ter of a few mo­ments cour­tesy of Rob­bie Ben­son then McEleney and for a while af­ter­wards it seemed they might lay siege to Bren­dan Clarke’s goal un­til he and his team-mates sim­ply yielded to the in­evitable.

Most of what fol­lowed, though, had a rather gen­tler feel about it with the lo­cals eas­ing rather than storm­ing their way to­wards the fin­ish­ing post.

The hard work was done, af­ter all, in that run of 13 straight vic­to­ries, in the five they scored at Tal­laght and the more re­cent win over Cork City at the Cross.

Still, there was a suc­ces­sion of chances to take the lead here. Hoban, went close, of course, and John Mount­ney – on from early for the in­jured Ben­son – and then Dy­lan Con­nolly grazed the top of the cross­bar as half-time ap­proached.

Af­ter Clif­ford scored six min­utes into the sec­ond pe­riod, fin­ish­ing well af­ter Dun­dalk had failed to deal with a free into the area, it took them quite a while to get go­ing again and the crowd started to turn on the ref­eree af­ter he de­nied them what would have been a soft penalty.

There was no need for scape­goats in the end, though. They left it late but the usual he­roes stepped up to the mark.

Cham­pi­ons of Ire­land . . . they know what they are.

We kept push­ing and Pat’s been get­ting a lot of late goals. He’s been fan­tas­tic for us this sea­son. And that was a great way to win it

PHO­TO­GRAPH: RYAN BYRNE/INPHO

Dun­dalk’s Dy­lan Con­nolly cel­e­brates win­ning the league tilte af­ter last night’s game against St Pa­trick’s Ath­letic at Oriel Park.

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