It was a euphoric night for Galway United FC as they clinched the SSE Airtricity First Division title away to Kerry FC at Mounthawk Park.
The 4-0 scoreline favouring John Caulfield’s side proved secondary, with a solitary point enough to seal promotion and silverware heading into the game.
An early goal from Wassim Aouachria set the tone for The Tribesmen, who controlled proceedings and sealed their victory with three unanswered goals in the second half.
Around 300 Galway United fans made the lengthy journey south, selling out their initial away allocation and two supporters’ buses.
The game started at a slow pace as The Kingdom, looking to delay Galway’s celebrations, carved out a couple of half chances.
A beach ball entering the field of play from the away end after two minutes didn’t do much to increase the tempo. However, it did set the tone for a jubilant atmosphere that continued for the duration of the game.
United’s opener in the 29th minute through Aouachria, signed from second-placed Waterford FC in July, ultimately put United in the driver’s seat and left them with one hand on the trophy.
A goal from Francely Lomboto sandwiched between two strikes from David Hurley sealed the title and sparked a pitch invasion as the United faithful embraced their heroes.
Those unable to make the journey could enjoy the full-time scenes on Virgin Media, making it the first televised First Division coverage this decade.
Amidst the madness, United manager John Caulfield spoke to the cameras and described his elation at seeing his side arrive at the top table after six years in the second tier.
“It’s fantastic for the club … last year we were really disappointed and felt we were close, so this year it’s been fantastic.
“It’s all about the supporters and the community. We’re just delighted for the staff and players for what they’ve done.
“It’s great to go up, so we’ll celebrate tonight and get back to the football on Monday.”
The victory sealed United’s first men’s trophy since 1996-97 when they won the First Division Shield and the League Cup under Dennis Clarke.
Looking forward, The Tribesmen will set their sights set on a league and cup double with a semi-final against Bohemians on the cards on Saturday, 7 October at Eamonn Deacy Park.
Regardless of their cup fortunes, John Caulfield’s side will receive the trophy on their final home league game of the season against Wexford FC on Friday, 20 October.
Before that, however, a hero’s welcome awaits for Galway’s champions in front of a booming home crowd on Monday evening against Finn Harps at Eamonn Deacy Park.
After six years in the wilderness, they certainly deserve it.