Jubilant scenes as Bohemians clinch their 10th title
LEAGUE OF IRELAND PREMIER DIVISION:Drogheda United 1 Bohemians 2 - THEY LEFT it late in the end with the second of Jason Byrne's goals only coming to secure the win in the dying seconds. It was enough, though, not just to bag Bohemians 10th league title last night at the home of last year's champions but also to leave the club's celebrating fans chanting, with some justification, "we are invincible", as they marched, jubilantly, across the rain-soaked pitch at the end of a occasionally tough but regularly thrilling game.
With St Patrick's Athletic losing at home to Cobh this win, Bohemians' 12th in a row, sent them an astonishing 22 points clear of their rivals. It could yet prove to be the first half of a double-winning season but really it is the scale of the title win and style in which it was accomplished that will be long remembered regardless of what happens in the remainder of this season's cup.
"It's a great feeling," beamed manager Pat Fenlon from the heart of the mayhem. "Drogheda worked terribly hard tonight in difficult circumstances and you'd have to feel for them but all credit to our lads, they've been magnificent all season.
"It's a great night for the supporters too," he added. "They've had a hard time over the last few seasons and they deserve this success." Around him the fans were certainly enjoying their moment and things took on a comical aspect when the players, having initially left for the dressing room, briefly returned only to be chased off the pitch by several hundred of their ecstatic followers.
A big crowd had packed into United Park to see what turned out to be a lively and hotly contested game. The conditions took their toll on the quality of the football at times but both sides still managed to produce some decent passing sequences with the locals just about edging the early exchanges.
Certainly it was United who had the better of the chances during the opening 20 minutes. Moments after Adam Hughes had headed a Paul Keegan free just wide Ollie Cahill hurtled down the left flank before cutting the ball low across the box for Eamon Zayed whose shot flew wildly over when hitting the target really shouldn't have been beyond him.
A couple of tough looking challenges suggested a hint of niggle between the two sides and Anto Murphy picked up a booking for a slightly daft attempt to kick the ball away from Shane Robinson ahead of a throw-in. Bohemians, for the most part exerted pressure on their opponents in a far more controlled way and with just short of 23 minutes played they got their reward.
The move that led to the breakthrough started with Owen Heary intercepting an underhit pass intended for Ollie Cahill. The right-back then collided with team-mate Gary Deegan but between them they managed to feed Murphy who in turn found Jason Byrne and the striker followed a wonderfully timed run in behind Joe Kendrick with a beautiful chip on the turn that left Jason Ewings stranded.
The goal appeared to put the Dubliners on course for the victory they needed to make the result at Inchicore irrelevant but it wasn't long before it had been cancelled out. This time it was Kendrick's run down the left which propelled his side towards the opposition area. Cahill did tremendously well to keep the defender's pass in play, though, before Kendrick had a shot blocked down and Fahrudin Kudozovic stepped up to drill the loose ball home from some six yards out.
The large local support were thrilled but, during what remained of the half, Bohemians got fractionally on top of what was an entertainingly open contest.
Five minutes before the break Jason McGuinness forced Ewings into a stunning save with a close-range header that had briefly looked certain to reach the back of the net while Heary had a goal disallowed during first-half stoppage time for a push on a defender by McGuinness.
It became more exciting as the second half wore on and Bohemians pressed for the fairytale ending to their dream campaign. Quite how they didn't get back on the track for the win 20 minutes from times is something of a mystery. Kendrick's sliding tackle on Byrne blocked the striker's initial crack at goal but Deegan then had a follow-up shot saved by Ewings, Byrne recovered to fire the loose ball off the post and Kelly then had his attempt to turn the ball home stopped just short of the line by Tambouras.
By that stage, though, word that Cobh had gone two up in Richmond Park had spread through the Bohemians fans who promptly commenced their celebrations.
On the field, things became increasingly frantic as the time slipped by and Anthony Buttimer dished out a succession of yellow cards including two to Hughes who departed with 10 minutes remaining.
With admirable determination, though, Bohemians simply redoubled their pursuit of the win. And in injury-time Crowe provided the perfect through ball for Byrne whose cool finish from a tight angle delivered a fairytale ending to what has been a dream campaign.
DROGHEDA UNITED:Ewings; Robinson (Ristila, 88 mins), Tambouras, Gartland, Kendrick; Baker, Hughes, Keegan, Cahill; Kudozovic (O'Brien, 62 mins).
BOHEMIANS:Murphy; Heary, McGuinness (Oman, 61 mins), Burns, Rossiter; Murphy (Kelly, 69 mins), O'Donnell, Deegan, Brennan; Crowe, Byrne.
Referee:A Buttimer (Cork).