Date: 7:45 p.m. April 19, 2010
Venue: Terryland Park
Gaynor was at the heart of most of Ian Foster's side's best work and deserved his goal, which came as a huge psychological boost given that Neale Fenn had just minutes earlier failed from the penalty spot. The win moves Dundalk two points clear of Sporting Fingal with the first series of games almost at an end.
Dundalk imposed themselves on proceedings from the first minute, with JJ Melligan powering forward from midfield as Galway struggle to cope with The Lilywhites' tempo. They had the ball in the net before ten minutes had elapsed, when Garry Breen rose highest to head in Ross Gaynor's delightfully flighted free kick, but an offside flag intervened in the home side's favour.
It looked a case of delaying the inevitable, though, as Galway were reduced to lumping balls forward from deep positions in the hope that Karl Sheppard or Anto Flood would lift the siege by either winning a free or escaping the attentions of Liam Burns and Breen.
Neither mission was proving too successful and Gaynor again provided the assist when Stephen Maher glanced a header wide of Barry Ryan's right hand post in the 20th minute. Maher then turned provider 15 minutes later when he jinked passed Seamus Conneely and looked for Melligan, but the midfielder's touch from close range was diverted behind for a corner. In a rare foray forward, Galway almost burgled a goal but James Creaney blasted over.
The home fans were finally provided with some succour in the closing minutes of the half, precipitated by Flood forcing a mistake from Burns that gave his side a bit of impetus. Despite this, it was the visitors who went closest again to breaking the deadlock before the break as Melligan twice shot narrowly wide when well placed.
Galway came back out the brighter unit, but efforts from Gary Curran and Flood failed to draw blood. Quickly Dundalk got down the other end, and when Fenn slithered into space in the box, Barry Ryan lunged out and brought the striker down. A penalty ensued, but Ryan was equal to the challenge as he denied Fenn his third league goal of the season with an excellent stop.
This time the inevitable was slightly closer to hand, as Gaynor pinged a shot off the post a minute later and then, on 61 minutes, he scampered onto Maher's pass and coolly rounded Ryan to the right of the area and slotted in from near the by-line, to cries of "We are top of the League!!" from the travelling fans, who remained vocal to the final whistle.
Connor introduced a trio of attacking substitutes in the last quarter in an attempt to salvage something from the game and it was one of these, Cian McBrien, who forced Peter Cherrie into his first serious action of the game with a curling, dipping drive from 20 yards with five minutes remaining.
Dundalk, however, were more than capable at playing out the rest of the game which included four minutes of added time and Ian Foster's return ultimately proved to be a happy one while Sean Connor was forced to watch in frustration as his former side put one over on him.
Next up for Galway United is another home tie on Friday night against Drogheda United, while Dundalk, clear at top of the table for the first time since 1995, host Bohemians in another intriguing Premier Division joust.
Galway United: Barry Ryan; Seamus Conneely, Jamie McKenzie, Paul Sinnott, Rhys Meynell; Bobby Ryan (Tom King, 73), Gary Curran (Cian McBrien, 64), Ciaran Foley, James Creaney (Derek O'Brien, 73); Anto Flood, Karl Sheppard.
Unused subs: Jonathan Keane, Jason Molloy.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Wayne Hatswell, Liam Burns, Garry Breen; Shaun Kelly, Tom Miller, JJ Melligan, Ross Gaynor, Stephen Maher; Neale Fenn (Nathan Murphy, 81), Faz Kudozovic (Ciaran McGuigan, 88).
Unused Subs: Matt Gregg, Johnny Breen, Tiarnan Mulvenna.
Referee: Padraig Sutton.
extratime Man of the Match: Ross Gaynor