Rafter the hero as Dundalk retain their Premier Division status

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Waterford United 0 Dundalk 2:A DETERMINED Dundalk retained their place in the Premier Division last night when they held their nerve to outmanoeuvre a never-say-die Waterford United in the cauldron of a packed RSC.

Having come so close to escaping the wilderness after five years in the lower division, the pain of defeat was etched on the faces of the United players, while many of their loyal fans were in tears as they watched them troop dejectedly off the pitch.

There was little between the teams until Michael Rafter scored the first of his two goals for Dundalk but, from then on, the visitors seemed to grow in stature and the Blues were always chasing the game. The home side’s anxiety to equalise left them vulnerable at the back – leading to the concession of a second goal.

Dundalk broke the deadlock on 45 minutes when Rafter skilfully controlled a ball from Chris Shields before swivelling and shooting first time to the net from 10 yards.

Rafter netted again on 69 minutes when he broke from the halfway line following a corner and coolly steered the ball into the corner of the net past advancing goalkeeper Packie Holden.

There was controversy after 50 minutes when United’s schoolboy international Seán Maguire appeared to have been taken down in the penalty area by Liam Burns. But instead of pointing to the spot, the referee showed the United striker a yellow card for diving.

Maguire did have the ball in the net on 86 minutes but he was flagged offside, and a minute later Nathan Murphy almost made it three for Dundalk but the ball rebounded off the butt of the upright.

WATERFORD UNITED:Holden, Mernagh, Frost, Dempsey, Breen, Long, Ryan (McGrath, 73 minutes), White (Coad, 79 minutes), Phelan (Doherty, 55 minutes), Maguire, Walshe. Subs not used: Kiely, Carey, Burns, Hughes.

DUNDALK FC: Cherrie, Whelan, Burns (O’Brien, 75 minutes), Shields, Rafter, Shannon, Griffin, McDonnell (Thomas, 88 minutes), Shanahan (Murphy, 60 minutes), Osbourne, Gaul. Subs not used: Conlon, Woods, Reilly, Foran.

Referee: Pádraig Sutton (Clare).

Dundalk win 4-2 on aggregate.

Attendance: 2,728

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