DFC | McEleney hits another stunner as Dundalk FC condemn Galway to the drop

SSE Airtricity League Premier Division | Galway Utd 3–4 Dundalk

Rory Hale of Galway United challenges Dundalk’s Robbie Benson. PICTURE: Sean Ryan | sportsphoto.ie

Michael Duffy’s 93rd-minute winner condemned Galway United to relegation as Dundalk won a seven-goal thriller at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday night.

Galway needed to win the game to have any chance of avoiding the drop and they got off to a perfect start when Stephen Folan smacked home the opener after eight minutes.

They couldn’t hold onto their lead, however, and Niclas Vemmelund pulled the visitors back on level terms just two minutes later and the Tribesmen were left reeling by two quickfire Dundalk goals just before the break.

Jamie McGrath drilled home to put the cap on a fine move before Patrick McEleney, making a welcome return from injury ahead of next week’s FAI Cup final, scored another goal of the season contender with an outrageous chip in stoppage time.

Rory Hale dragged the hosts back into it early in the second-half and when Ronan Murray made it 3–3 with two minutes to play, it looked like The Great Escape might just be possible.

Defensive errors cost Galway in the end, though, and with 93 minutes on the clock, substitute Tommy Stewart picked out Duffy, the winger’s finish opening the trapdoor to Division One.

An absorbing encounter opened with McEleney picking out Duffy with a superb lofted pass after just three minutes but Marc Ludden did well to make a covering tackle.

Michael Duffy gets this pass away despite the attentions of Galway United’s David Cawley. PICTURE: Sean Ryan | sportsphoto.ie

The hosts pressed Dundalk in high positions and Gary Rogers had to push an Eoin McCormack curler around the post after David Cawley had forced an error in the middle of the park.

The Lilywhites goalkeeper made an even better save from the subsequent corner, beating Niall Maher’s header away, but Folan was on hand to lash home his fifth goal of the season and give Shane Keegan’s side a vital advantage.

Dundalk, however, hit back just two minutes later when Vemmelund was given oceans of space to meet Duffy’s free-kick in the six-yard box. Conor Winn made a brilliant save but the Dane reacted quickly to stab home at the second attempt.

The visitors should have pulled in front after 17 minutes when McEleney’s chipped pass located David McMillan in a pocket of space but Dundalk’s top scorer smashed his attempt over the top.

Things settled down after that before Winn did well to tip a ferocious McEleney drive away for a corner following a neat move.

Dundalk continued to ping passes around stylishly and they edged in front with a fantastic bit of football in the 42nd minute.

McEleney was heavily involved, shifting a sublime pass out to Stephen O’Donnell, who in turn fed Dane Massey. The left-back’s ball inside found McGrath and he set himself nicely before firing into the far corner.

Galway’s hopes were left hanging by a thread when Dundalk hit their third goal in the second minute of stoppage time. A rapid counter-attack from back to front saw Robbie Benson release McEleney and the 24-year-old executed a stunning chip over the head of Winn from 18 yards. A wonderful, wonderful goal.

Dundalk captain Stephen O’Donnell holds off Galway United’s Rory Hale. PICTURE: Sean Ryan | sportsphoto.ie

Keegan tried to rally his troops on the pitch before the second half kicked off and it seemed to work as Rory Hale latched onto an Eoin McCormack touch to leave Stephen O’Donnell in his wake and beat Rogers with a classy finish in the 53rd minute.

It was one-way traffic after that as Dundalk lost all of their fluency and Keegan made a triple substitution with 13 minutes to go in a bid to salvage something from the game.

Galway pinned their opponents back, launching a number of dangerous balls into the Dundalk penalty area and substitute Padraic Cunningham saw a header come off the butt of the post with three minutes to play.

That looked as if it was that for the home side but they kept going and hauled themselves level in the 88th minute when Ronan Murray’s fantastic first-time volley flew past Rogers to set up a grandstand finish.

It was Dundalk, however, who had the final say, Duffy coming in at the back post to seal Galway’s fate and give Stephen Kenny’s side a boost ahead of their showdown with Cork City at the Aviva Stadium next Sunday.

GALWAY UNITED: Conor Winn; Colm Horgan, Niall Maher, Stephen Folan, Marc Ludden; Kevin Devaney (Padraic Cunningham 77), Rory Hale, David Cawley, Gary Shanahan (Conor Melody 77); Ronan Murray, Eoin McCormack (Ronan Manning 77). Subs not used: Charlie Burns (GK), Paul Sinnott, Alex Byrne, Conor Barry.

DUNDALK FC: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Niclas Vemmelund, Dane Massey; Robbie Benson, Stephen O’Donnell; Jamie McGrath, Patrick McEleney (Dylan Connolly 58), Michael Duffy; David McMillan (Tommy Stewart 81). Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (GK), Carlton Ubaezuono, Jake O’Connor, Eric Whelan.

REFEREE: Ben Connolly. ATTENDANCE: 2,214.

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