So, it has finally arrived! The LOI has returned and I for one can’t wait. As a Dundalk fan, I have renewed optimism. New owners, new manager, new players (well majority are) but the same Dundalk fans following this great club through thick and thin. Like I had mentioned previously on The Town End podcast, we Dundalk fans have been spoiled with trophies over the past decade. In fact, my 11-year-old son, Ross couldn’t believe that we hadn’t made the cup final last season. After all, we did have a run of SIX cup finals in a row so he probably just expected it again.
I was up in Oriel last Friday and I must admit that Drogheda surprised me. I had been keeping an eye on their business in pre-season after they lost 4 of their regular starters from last season but they looked very comfortable against Dundalk. I’d imagine the experience and know-how of players like Dane Massey & Gary Deegan will be invaluable to them this season. I did like the look of young Darragh Nugent, who is on a season-long loan from Shamrock Rovers. I thought he had quite an impressive match and is defo one to watch for them this season. He will come on leaps and bounds playing regular first-team football and will flourish under the guidance of Kev Doherty and Daire Doyle.
Right enough about that Drogs’ crowd…. Dundalk looked like they were off the pace a little, maybe 2 or 3 weeks behind Drogs’ fitness-wise but then again it is still pre-season and I don’t think the team who started will be the XI who start v Derry City. There was a couple of positives from the new players. I thought Joe Adams & Dan Williams showed some nice touches and looked lively in the first half. The performance levels went up with a couple of changes and Andy Boyle played his first minutes of the new season which was promising along with Paul Doyle, who looks a cultured centre mid and Steven Bradley looked very dangerous on the wing. Indeed, Bradley was involved in the 3 best moves Da Town put together and was involved in the build-up to McMillan’s goal. I’m excited by the prospect of watching how the Hibs loanee gets on in the LOI.
Derry City will be formidable opponents and we will be “welcoming” some Lilywhite old boys back to the home of football. I can’t promise Duffy, McEleney, Patching or Dummigan will get a warm welcome from the shed. It will be an interesting opening match, but I remain positive and if we can take the lead, I think we will win the match.
I had mentioned last week about my son Ross’ season starting soon. News came out a couple of days ago that the club as a whole would be looking to team up with Head In The Game and that a couple of the younger sides would be getting the HITG logo on their jerseys to promote a positive mental health message. I couldn’t be any prouder that I am associated with both. The u11 & u12 sides will be travelling to Blackpool in late April to compete in the Blackpool Cup against sides from 8 different countries. It will be a great experience for both teams and a good test against players they haven’t come across yet. Most importantly, they will be creating Football memories with their best friends to last them a lifetime. They are looking for sponsorship to help cover costs so I will be rattling the collection tin and seeing if I can pull in any favours from my football friends to see if we can get a couple of signed jerseys in the next few weeks.
Sharon was gutted that Champions League evenings were back this week. So while she was getting stuck into Netflix I watched PSG v Real Madrid on Tuesday and Inter Milan v my other love, Liverpool. Mbappe was quite impressive again. The sub-plot of him supposedly moving to Real at the end of the season only meant one thing and that was to score the winner in a 1-0 win. I still can’t get my head around Messi scoring free kicks from 25 yards in the top corner but can’t convert from 12 yards! I was lucky enough to watch the GOAT while on my own stag. I even managed to record him scoring a trademark FK back in 2014. My older self is disgusted I hadn’t just enjoyed the moment as I find myself giving out at the Premier League matches on TV if someone in the crowd is recording just like I did. My favourite non-Liverpool player was also playing that night at RB for Barca in Dani Alves so I can tick that one off the bucket list!
Super Bowl Sunday just passed last weekend but I’m not even going to pretend to know even the smallest notion what is going on. I think the fact that most people I know were talking about the Half-time show the next day. It was a real throwback to my own youth with Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige among others all producing a memorable performance. LA Rams won the game in the end, I don’t think I have caught the NFL bug, plus the season doesn’t resume until September. Yes, you heard that right seven months away. Enjoy the off-season lads haha!
Finally, I want to thank everyone who sent messages of support since I started writing this blog. I had been in two minds whether I would take up the offer but so far so good. To all the players, managers and supporters around the country who are embarking on another season, I wish you all the best of luck. If you haven’t been to a LOI match or haven’t been in a while I encourage you to give it a try cos you might just be surprised. The atmosphere you wouldn’t get watching at home, the half-time conversations with your fellow fans and the moments of magic you can’t replicate unless you are there at the match. Until next week.
Over and out,
THE NEW SEASON IS FINALLY HERE! ARE YOU READY FOR IT? You will be after you’ve tuned in to S6EP1 of Between the Stripes LOI podcast, featuring special guests: Dan O’Reilly, Cristian Magerusan & Kevin Doherty!
Available for listening here, or wherever you get your podcasts from. Don’t miss it!