Dundalk secure a famous Europa League victory
Dundalk became the first Irish club to win a group stage game in a major European competition as they secured a 1-0 win over Israeli champions Maccabi Tel-Aviv in Tallaght.
Ciaran Kilduff, who scored the equaliser at AZ Alkmaar, was the hero again as he touched home Daryl Horgan's delicate cross in the 72nd minute for a win that guarantees the Airtricity League champions another €360,000 in prize money.
It was a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man, as the hero in the last-gasp draw against AZ Alkmaar doubled his tally in the competition to claim victory.
Switching from their home in County Louth to Dublin's Tallaght Stadium, the Lilywhites faithful had to wait for 72 minutes for the breakthrough.
Forward Patrick McEleney collected the ball inside the Maccabi half and played it to the lively Daryl Horgan on the left of the penalty area from where the winger clipped in a cross for birthday boy Kilduff, 28 today, to score.
It was no less than the Lilywhites deserved after dominating long periods of game by sticking to their creative and assured passing game.
Both sides went into the match on top of their respective leagues. Dundalk enjoyed a morale-boosting 3-1 win over Derry City last Friday night while Maccabi had a resounding 5-0 win against their fierce city rivals Hapoel Tel Aviv on Sunday to take them six points clear.
The visitors had a number of chances but did not offer enough going forward and never truly imposed themselves on the game.
As early as the second minute the home side were clean through on goal with McEleney gifted the chance of an early goal thanks to a deft flick by David McMillan.
But, one-on-one against Maccabi goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic, the number 11 shot tamely from the edge of the box.
The Lilywhites felt they were denied a penalty after 20 minutes. Robbie Benson picked up a loose ball on the right of the penalty area and appeared to be scythed down by a challenge from Maccabi defender Omri Ben Harush as he chased through on goal.
Despite intense appeals from Benson and others the referee waved play on.
Maccabi enjoyed a 10-minute spell of possession midway through the first half but other than two corners in quick succession and a couple of non-threatening efforts on goal it was fruitless.
Dundalk's skill and creativity was again on show as the first half drew to a close and a breakaway split the Maccabi defence.
Right-back Sean Gannon received the ball in his own half and picked out McMillan on the halfway line and he turned his man to leave the Israelis exposed.
The striker fed Horgan as be broke from midfield and drove to the box before switching the ball to the onrushing McEleney but he failed to break the deadlock.
One of the best chances of the night fell to Maccabi midway through the second half.
After a misjudgement by Benson in front of his defence, Maccabi's Vidar Om Kjartansson curled a fierce left-foot drive over the crossbar from inside the box.
From there the game opened up with Dundalk pushing forward and capitalising with the introduction of Kilduff, who is fast becoming their Europa talisman.
It was an historic night for Irish soccer and the celebrations kicked off at the final whistle:
This was the reaction of Dundalk goal scoring hero Kilduff:
Zenit St Petersburg were comprehensive 5-0 winners over AZ Alkmaar this evening meaning they top the group on six points with Dundalk occupying fourth position on four, three points ahead of the Dutch side. Maccabi are pointless.