What a night for Dundalk as this Irish fairy-tale continues with a new high

What a night for Dundalk as this Irish fairy-tale continues with a new high

DUNDALK wrote another amazing chapter in their Europa League adventure story with a historic 1-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv at Tallaght Stadium.

For the second European game in succession, Ciaran Kilduff was the Dundalk hero, coming off the bench as he did in the previous game against AZ to score a crucial goal, and on this occasion mark his 28th birthday in memorable style.

It was a result that was thoroughly deserved on the night, with Dundalk's pace, imagination and passing football proving to be too much for a Maccabi side who had former Premier League stars Yossi Benayoun and Tal Ben Haim in their ranks.

The victory was the first ever win for a League of Ireland side in the group stages of a European competition, and Dundalk now sit in second place in the Group D table on four points, two behind Zenit St Petersburg, who are the Lilywhites' next opponents at Tallaght Stadium on 20th October.

After their hard earned 1-1 draw against AZ Alkmaar two weeks ago, it seemed a tall order for Stephen Kenny's men to top that display, but their determination and intensity was in evidence right from the start, and they came close to opening the scoring within 90 seconds.

A delightful flick on from David McMillan set Patrick McEleney through on goal, but the Dundalk man hit his shot straight at Maccabi keeper Rajkovic from point blank range.

Although Maccabi had the lion's share of possession in the first-half, it was Dundalk who created the best goalscoring opportunities, the best of those on the half-hour when Ronan Finn set up Darryl Horgan for a shot that he hit straight at the keeper.

Dundalk finished the half with another well-worked move, a neat turn and pass from McMillan setting Horgan free, but from his pass Patrick McEleney skied the ball well over the bar.

It was an impressive opening 45 minutes from Dundalk, and they kept the momentum going after the break, with another good move ending in Chris Shields sending a shot over from 30 yards.

However, Maccabi's neat passing football on the deck was always likely to create openings, and the lively Omri Ben Harush came close 10 minutes in, when he fired a shot just wide of the target from 25 yards.

But on the 65 minute mark, Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny took the decision to replace David McMillan with Ciaran Kilduff, and the move almost paid off instantly when the striker nearly scored with his first touch of the ball, heading over from a Darryl Horgan cross.

However, within seven minutes, Tallaght Stadium erupted when the same combination delivered a priceless goal.

Patrick McEleney's cross to the far left hand side of the penalty area found Horgan in space, and he clipped a delightfully weighted cross into the six-yard box that Kilduff steered under the keeper and into the net.

With time running out Maccabi pushed forward in search of an equaliser, but solid defending from Dundalk kept them at bay aside of a couple of nervous moments, most notably seven minutes from time when they were almost caught out by a quickly taken free-kick, but Dane Massey reacted quickly to block a shot from Barak Itzhaki.

With a minute remaining, Dundalk came close to getting a second goal, when Horgan broke down the left, cut inside and unleashed a shot that Maccabi's Ben Harush managed to deflect over the bar from close range.

But one goal proved to be enough, and after achieving one of the finest results ever by a League of Ireland club in Europe, two games into their Europa League campaign Dundalk have more points than European Cup-winning clubs Manchester United, Inter Milan, Steaua Bucharest and Feyenoord.