Sligo Rovers profited from another goalkeeping gaffe for Dundalk at Oriel Park to give themselves a chance of European football next season.
After criticism of Aaron McCarey’s display in the 4-3 Europa League defeat away to Rapid Wien last Thursday, Gary Rogers was one of six changes to the Lilywhites side selected by interim head coach Filippo Giovagnoli.
However, the veteran was caught all at sea for the opening goal in the game after just 10 minutes when a cross from wide on the right looped over his head and into the net. Ronan Coughlan would add a stunning second deep in stoppage time to ensure the three points for the visitors on a night when the home side never really showed up.
Those goals were enough for Liam Buckley’s side to claim fourth place in the table, which could be enough for a Europa League spot if one of the three sides above them in the table goes on to win the FAI Cup.
That would be a tremendous achievement for a Sligo side who were bottom without a point when the league resumed at the end of July.
While they sweat over whether or not they will be in Europe next season, Dundalk can perhaps count themselves fortunate to be there already.Defeat to the Bit O Red meant that they needed a favour from Finn Harps to finish third.
This was another insipid display from the dethroned champions who finish the campaign a massive 22 points off Shamrock Rovers and 11 points adrift of Bohemians.
They still have the FAI Cup and three Europa League games to come in the coming weeks but for many this may have been an Oriel Park farewell after a forgettable domestic season.Jordan Flores had an early effort for the hosts which was straight at Ed McGinty but after that the visitors took control.
Their first chance arrived in the ninth minute when Ryan De Vries found space on the right to cross to the unmarked Ronan Coughlan but he could only glance his header across the face of goal and wide.Within a minute the Bit O Red were in front.
De Vries showed remarkable skill to spin away from two challenges before releasing Jesse Devers on the right with his cross/shot deceiving Rogers as it flew over his head into the top left hand corner.
Dundalk were fortunate it wasn’t 2-0 two minutes later as Coughlan found space at the edge of the box to get a shot away only to fire straight at Rogers.
The striker would have another chance soon after when he met Regan Donelan’s corner at the near post but on this occasion he couldn’t keep his header down.The home side did have a few chances before the break with Flores firing over from Stefan Colovic’s lay off before McGinty did well to save a deflected effort from Sean Murray from the edge of the box.
The Republic of Ireland U-21 squad member then produced two stunning saves two minutes before the break when he firstly clawed away a hooked effort from Daniel Cleary from a Colovic corner before making an even better stop from the follow up corner when he tipped Brian Gartland’s header around the post.
After surviving a scare when Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe was unmarked at the back post but fired tamely at Rogers, Dundalk’s evening then went from bad to worse in first half stoppage time when top scorer Patrick Hoban limped off with a serious looking injury.
Sean Gannon was also introduced on the wing at half-time but it was right back Sean Hoare who created the first chance of the second half on 53 minutes when his cross picked out the unmarked McMillan whose header was well saved by McGinty at the second attempt.
There were few further openings after that with McMillan unable to capitalise on other half chances. Cleary was even deployed up front towards the end as they went in desperate search of a leveller.It almost arrived two a minute from the end when Hoare’s header from Colovic’s corner was turned goalward by Gannon but again McGinty was equal to it as it was turned around the post.
Daniel Cleary had a couple of bites at the cherry to grab an equaliser in the second minute of stoppage time but it was Sligo who would be celebrating in the 96th minute when Coughlan rifled a stunning shot past Rogers to complete the victory.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Hoare, Brian Gartland, Daniel Cleary, Cameron Dummigan; Greg Sloggett, Jordan Flores (John Mountney 74); Stefan Colovic, Sean Murray (Sean Gannon HT), Nathan Oduwa; Patrick Hoban (David McMillan 45+2). Subs not used: Aaron McCarey, Darragh Leahy, Jamie Wynne, Andy Boyle.
Sligo Rovers: Ed McGinty; Lewis Banks, Garry Buckley, John Mahon, Regan Donelon (Alex Cooper 64); David Cawley, Niall Morahan (Will Seymore 79); Jesse Devers, Ryan De Vries, Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe; Ronan Coughlan. Subs not used: Luke McNicholas, Danny Kane, Darragh Noone, Darren Collins, Sigitas Olberkis.