Drogheda champions on dramatic final night of League of Ireland First Division

Going into the final night of the regular season of the 2020 League of Ireland First Division, seven of the ten clubs had possibilities of either automatic promotion or finishing in the promotion playoff places.

All five matches on the final night had something meaningful riding on them.

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The title race and battle for the one automatic promotion spot was between Drogheda United and Bray Wanderers.

Drogheda went into the final game one point clear at the top of the table. Perhaps motivated by losing in the playoffs in each of the last two years, Drogs played determinedly and beat Cabinteely 0-2 at Stradbrook.

Drogheda dominated and their pressure paid off in the 58th minute 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.

Drogs scored their second five minutes later as Luke Heeney headed the ball home after sub James Clarke found the ex-St Patrick’s Athletic player who made no mistake to end the title race.

Although Cabinteely missed a late penalty it mattered little as, despite a bad run of eight defeats from their last 11 games they secured the final playoff spot due to Galway United and Cobh Ramblers – their two rivals for that last playoff spot slipping up.

Galway United went into the final game of the season needing a win to book their place in the playoffs but their late season promotion push came up short as UCD earned a point that wasn’t particularly needed for them at a drenched Eamon Deasy Park.

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Having taken the lead shortly before half-time, Galway were pegged back and trailed 1-2 with a minute to play before Shane Duggan scored an excellent equaliser in injury-time. Duggan went on a terrific solo run to drive the ball into the back of the net from 30 yards. There was to be little time for the home side to get the elusive winner which has cost them a playoff place.

Meanwhile, Cobh Ramblers huffed and puffed and completely dominated the last 20 minutes especially against Shamrock Rovers II but the Rams couldn’t force a goal and, despite the two other results they needed going their way they missed out on the playoffs by two points as they couldn’t force the one goal that would have booked that playoff place.

Elsewhere Bray Wanderers beat Athlone Town 1-0 but Drogheda winning rendered that result irrelevant while Wexford beat Longford Town 2-1, a result that was also irrelevant on the night because of results elsewhere.

Bray Wanderers will now play Cabinteely and UCD will meet Longford in the promotion playoff semi-final this weekend with the winner of those two ties facing each other for the right to face any one of a possible five teams from the bottom half/midtable of the Premier Division for the right to play in the top flight in 2021.

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