Kevin O’Connor scored a stunning late winner to secure Bray Wanderers’ place in the Premier Division for a tenth successive season as they beat First Division Longford Town 3-2 at the City Calling Stadium to record a 5-4 aggregate win in the promotion/relegation play-off final.
In a match that bettered the thrilling 2-2 draw of the first leg at the Carlisle Grounds last Monday, O’Connor’s goal was worthy of winning any match when it arrived on 86 minutes, his superb drive beating Chris Bennion from all of 30 yards out.
In a repeat of the first game at the Carlisle Grounds on Monday night, Bray started much the better, stunning the big home crowd to take a third minute lead when midfielder Gary Dempsey controlled the ball on his chest to tee up a delightful volley that dipped into the back of the net.
Second best in the first half, Longford responded in the second, equalising on 58 minutes when Derek O’Brien's low cross was swept home by Daniel Purdy.
That undoubtedly lifted Longford. But their first decent spell of possession of the game was soon dampened when Bray regained the lead on 73 minutes.
The impressive Kevin O’Connor’s ball was flicked on by Jason Byrne for Kieran "Marty" Waters who fired an angled drive low across Bennion to the net.
Longford responded to level again five minutes later with Purdy scoring a terrific second goal of the night with a volley to the top corner.
But O’Connor’s sublime strike won it for Bray, the drama added to in stoppage time as both sides finished with ten men when Longford’s Noel Haverty and Shane O’Connor of Bray were sent off following a scuffle after a foul on Bray keeper Darren Quigley.