Keegan defends keeper after Oriel Park blunder

Author: Kieran Burke – @Kieran_B_Sport

Dundalk FC team manager Shane Keegan came out in defense of his
goalkeeper Alessio Abibi after the Albanian under-19 international made
a critical error in the Lilywhites shock home defeat to Finn Harps on
Friday night.

The twenty-four-year-olds distribution and general kicking had been
questioned after some shaky moments during the Presidents Cup success,
in which Abibi was the hero with two saves in the penalty shoot-out, and
after Dundalk’s underwhelming 1-1 draw in Sligo on the opening weekend
but the former Serie C goalkeepers first true blunder in the League of
Ireland came on the forty-third-minute at Oriel Park when he was caught
napping with the ball at his feet with Finn Harps striker Adam Foley
charging down an attempt clearance and turning it into the net.

While Dundalk seemed to bounce back well having equalised shortly after
the start of the second-half through a Pat Hoban header Chris Shields
admitted after the game the timing of the game’s opening goal came as a
real kick in the teeth.

“We’ve gifted them a goal right at the half-time and it’s a real killer”
said a clearly frustrated Dundalk FC captain.

Despite all of that Keegan came out fighting when fielding post-match
media duties insisting he wouldn’t be pointing the finger at any one
player in what was a result that was “not acceptable” for the County
Louth club.

“I wouldn’t be pointing fingers (at Alessio), we came out of Sligo last
week with a point thanks to Alessio, we won the Presidents Cup probably
because of Alessio and over the course of a season something like that
is going to happen to every keeper in the league” said the former
Wexford Youths and Galway United manager.

Having got back into the game through Pat Hoban’s first goal of the
season the home side found themselves unable to kick on and find a
winner with that honor instead going the way of Adam Foley who netted
his third goal of the new campaign just after the hour mark with a
finish that gave Abibi no chance.

“When something like that happens to a goalkeeper you’re relying on your
teammates to get you out of jail and we should have had enough to get
something from this game” remarked Keegan who wasn’t keen on committing
to whether or not he felt the winning goal was offside with the Dundalk
team manager eager to stress no matter the outcome of the decision his
team “should have defend the goal better.”

Tonight’s first home league game of 2021 for the Town saw Korean winger
Han Seung-woo make his LOI bow from the substitutes bench while reports
continue to link former LMS all-star Wilfried Zahibo with last season’s
FAI Cup winners. While Dundalk fans will be excited to see such names
arriving at the club there is no doubt such transfer activities are
adding to already high levels of expectancy surrounding the club.

When asked about the wage budget at the club and the need to turn things
around quickly Keegan was quick to stress the coaching staff would not
be “feeling sorry for ourselves”

“We have zero times to feel sorry for ourselves if we do that for three
or four weeks the season will be over before we even get motoring we
just need to get back on the training ground next week and work harder
than we’ve ever worked to get the brains engaged and figure out what
went wrong tonight and how do we fix it as opposed to any whining or
moaning,” said Keegan.

With a trip to the Champions up next for Dundalk those are exactly the
kind of comments supporters of the Louth outfit will want to be hearing
but once again on Friday night Keegan and his coaching team of Filippo
Giovagnoli, who watched on from the stands for the majority of
proceedings, and Giuseppe Rossi were forced to plan without creative
kingpin Patrick McEleney who took a knock in training midweek while Pat
Hoban was also seen leaving Oriel Park with strapping around his
hamstring in what will be unwelcome news ahead of that huge game with
Shamrock Rovers.

Asked about the status of those two players in particular Keegan
replied: “Pat (Hoban) I’m not too sure on he’ll have to be assessed
while it’s probably more precautionary with McEleney, we hope it’s
nothing serious and we didn’t want to make it anything serious if that
makes sense, he’s the sort of fella you don’t want to be risking and
then missing for three or four weeks so we hope he’ll be back as soon as

Pushed further on the severity of the Derryman’s injury concern Keegan
revealed he does hope to have McEleney available for the trip to
Tallaght next week.

Further reading