Andrew Dempsey reports from Stradbrook Road
Drogheda United clinched a record fifth First Division league title on Tuesday evening with a 2-0 win away to Cabinteely.
James Brown’s 58th minute strike saw the Boynesiders take a major step towards glory, before Luke Heeney sealed the deal just five minutes later with a header at the back post.
However, despite their loss, ten-man Cabo remain in the playoffs following UCD’s and Cobh’s draws against Galway United and Shamrock Rovers II respectively.
Cabo will now face Bray Wanderers in a playoff at the Carlisle Grounds on Saturday afternoon – while Drogheda will now start preparing for their return to the top-flight.
Knowing that a win would assure his side of the First Division title, Drogs boss Tim Clancy kept the same team from their 2-0 win over Wexford last Saturday afternoon.
The home side meanwhile made three alterations from their most recent league outing away to UCD, with captain Conor Keeley returning to the fold after a knock.
Alex Aspil also came back into the side, as their top scorer Shane Barnes missed out on Devlin’s starting line-up.
The visitors started well and ought to have taken the lead after just 38 seconds as they hit the crossbar from a free-kick.
Hyland’s set-piece was met by the head of Derek Prendergast – before it fell into the path of Brandon Bermingham.
However, the ex-Bohemians under-19 player saw his volley crash off the underside of the bar as the hosts survived an early scare.
Devlin’s team however grew into the game, but their best chance was a skewed volley from midfielder Zak O’Neill that David Odumosu easily saved.
They then had a long throw in that caused problems in the Drogs defence, but Paul Fox was unable to get enough on the ball to trouble Odumosu.
The game had its first twist of the night in the 32nd minute as Cabinteely’s Jonny Carlin was dismissed for a second yellow card.
The ex-Finn Harps under-19 player was adjudged to have bundled over Chris Lyons on the edge of the penalty area, leaving referee Alan Patchell with no hesitation in sending him off.
However, Clancy’s charges could not make their numerical advantage pay as they went in to the break scoreless.
But the visitors pressure would soon pay just before the hour mark as James Brown netted his first competitive goal for Drogheda United.
The former Shelbourne full-back cut inside and fired a low shot home past Corey Chambers at his near post.
The Drogs would then score their second just five minutes later as Heeney headed the ball home after sub James Clarke found the ex-St Patrick’s Athletic player who made no mistake to all but end the title race.
The visitors – who had lost against Finn Harps in the previous two years in the playoffs – would make no such error this time around as they eased to victory.
The Green and White’s however kept trying to halve the deficit, but it did not matter much as the game drew to a close.
Following UCD’s win away to Galway United, and Cobh Ramblers scoreless draw at home to Shamrock Rovers II – Cabo were assured of their playoff spot despite their wretched run of form.
In the 88th minute, Kevin Knight saw his spot-kick saved by Odumosu in the Drogheda United goal after Brown was adjudged to have handballed in the penalty area.
But it mattered little, as Cabo were securedof their playoff spot, and Drogheda United were confirmed as First Division champions on a night of high-drama at Stradbrook.
Cabinteely: Corey Chambers; Daniel Blackbyrne, Jonny Carlin, Conor Keeley, Kevin Knight; Alex Aspil (Shane Barnes 64), Jack Connolly (Eoin Massey 74), Paul Fox (Dean Casey 64), Vilius Labutis (Keith Dalton 64), Zak O'Neill (Luke Clucas 74); Kieran Marty Waters.
Subs not used: Benjamin Clark, Dylan Thornton.
Booked: Jonny Carlin (30 and 32), Jonny Carlin (32), Paul Fox (40), Conor Keeley (55), Kevin Knight (90).
Sent off: Jonny Carlin (32).
Drogheda United: David Odumosu; James Brown, Hugh Douglas, Conor Kane, Derek Prendergast; Brandon Bermingham, Mark Hughes, Jake Hyland; Mark Doyle (James Clarke 57), Luke Heeney (Jack Tuite 83), Chris Lyons.
Subs not used: Jordan Adeyemo, Richie O'Farrell, Ryan O'Shea, Ross Treacy, Adam Wixted.
Booked: Mark Hughes (28) ,James Brown (62)
Referee: Alan Patchell
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: James Brown (Drogheda United).
The Final League of Ireland First Division Table 2020— Extratime.com (@ExtratimeNews) October 27, 2020
Congratulations to @DroghedaUnited - League Winners
Bray Wanderers, UCD, Longford Town and Cabinteely enter the play-offs. https://t.co/27fKdFUlse#LeagueOfIreland