A Michael Rafter brace helped Dundalk retain their Premier Division status after a 2-0 win against Waterford United on Friday night in the RSC. Two goals from the striker were enough to ensure that Dundalk stay in the League of Ireland’s top division.
Paul Phelan found Sean Maguire early on, but Peter White shot wide of the target after Maguire’s layoff. Michal Rafter then played Gary Shanahan through but his near post strike was saved by Packie Holden.
Waterford United had a superb chance to score after eight just minutes as Peter Phelan’s right wing corner found David Breen to head toward goal, but Sean Maguire couldn’t get a touch on the ball from three yards out.
Stephen McDonnell's free kick from the left dropped on the foot of Mark Griffin, but he somehow fired his powerful shot over the bar from eight yards. Ben Ryan fired just wide just past the half hour after good work from Paul Phelan before Sean Maguire was put through by John Frost, only for Eoghan Osbourne to get back and make a vital tackle.
Dundalk made the breakthrough on the stroke of half time and it was ex-Waterford United striker Michael Rafter who grabbed it, turning in the penalty area before firing low past Packie Holden.
Referee Padraig Sutton turned down big penalty appeals four minutes into the second half. Liam Burns looked to have taken Sean Maguire down inside the penalty area, but Sutton decided it was a dive, and worthy of a yellow for Maguire.
Dundalk doubled their lead with a superb counter attack after 69 minutes. Michael Rafter beat John Frost to the breaking ball on the halfway line after a Waterford corner, before racing through on goal to finish low past the dive of Holden.
Sean Maguire looked to be set to strike at Cherrie with ten minutes remaining but for a superb Stephen McDonnell tackle. Waterford United had the ball in the back of the net shortly afterwards, but Sean Maguire’s strike, after good work from Gary Dempsey, was ruled out for offside, though it looked a very tight call.
Waterford pushed for a lifeline but couldn’t find a way past a well-organised Dundalk backline. Despite just four league wins this season, Dundalk retain their Premier Division with a deserved win.
Waterford United: Packie Holden; Dylan Mernagh, David Breen, Seamus Long, John Frost; Ben Ryan (Aidan McGrath 73), Gary Dempsey, Peter White (Conor Coad 79), Paul Phelan (Jack Doherty 56); Sean Maguire, Daragh Walshe.
Subs not used: Willie John Kiely, Paul Carey, Craig Burns, Robbie Hughes.
Booked: Maguire (48)
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Robbie Gaul, Paul Whelan, Liam Burns (Mark O’Brien 75), Eoghan Osbourne; Lorcan Shannon, Chris Shields, Stephen McDonnell (Peter Thomas 88), Gary Shanahan (Nathan Murphy 60); Mark Griffin, Michael Rafter.
Subs not used: Barry Conlon, William Woods, Chris Reilly.
Booked: Thomas (90)
Referee: Padraig Sutton
Man of the Match: Michael Rafter (Dundalk).