AUTHOR: Kieran Burke – @kieran_b_sport/@betweenstripes
Stephen O’Donnell claimed his biggest win as Dundalk boss on Friday night as the Lilywhites hammered St.Patrick’s Athletic 5-0 in front of 3,482 fans at Oriel Park. Despite a slow start to the new season with a draw at home to UCD and a loss away to Bohemians last week, O’Donnell had been adamant in the build up to the match that his team just needed time to gel before they’d starting showing their quality and they backed up their bosses claims with a rip-roaring display.
Pat Hoban opened his account for the season just five minutes in when he was left unmarked to head home a Dundalk free-kick. Gibraltar international Louie Annesley punished some more lackadaisical Pats defending just ten minutes later as he turned the ball home from close range. A goalkeeping blunder from ex-Dundalk youngster David Odumosu handed Rayhaan Tulloch a first LOI goal on 51 minutes while Daniel Kelly and Connor Malley added to Tim Clancy’s woes on the night.
Speaking to the assembled media after the match, O’Donnell doubled down on some of his pre-match comments in regards to the potential he feels his side carry this season.
“I’m delighted with them, I’m delighted it shows them our potential, it shows the players that if we do our business right that we’ve a good team with good players, they’ll get big belief from that.”
“I see it every day in training, I was sick of telling you guys, it still doesn’t mean we’re a well oiled machine, there will be bumps along the way but I’m glad everyone saw a peak at the potential of the individuals and the collective because that’s what we see every day in training”, O’Donnell said.
The Dundalk Head Coach made four changes from last week’s defeat at Dalymount Park with Darragh Leahy, Johannes Yli-Kokko, Rayhaan Tulloch, and Daniel Kelly all coming in for starts. Naturally, after scoring five goals, many eyes will be drawn to the attacking players selected by O’Donnell but the return of full-back Leahy, who had been suffering with illness early in the season, was crucial as it allowed recent Blackburn recruit Louie Annesley to move into his preferred role of centre-back having struggled at left-back in recent weeks. O’Donnell feels Friday nights experience will help Annesley to progress as he settles into the LOI.
“I was happy with Louie the last couple of weeks, he’s not a left-back, we didn’t have a left-back because Darragh was out and Robbie McCourt is out, Louie is versatile, I’d have no problem playing him left-back but it’s not where you’re going to see him at his best, he’s a centre-back even though he plays midfield for Gibraltar but he’s a centre-half who’s done really well tonight, him and Andy Boyle.”
“St.Pat’s have some good players and they go direct up on top of you so he dealt well with that and he’ll keep progressing, he wouldn’t have been in many games like that where it’s up and at ’em and really high tempo so that will only bring him on”, added O’Donnell on Annesley’s performance.
With Friday’s win being game one of three this week for Dundalk, O’Donnell admits he must be “sensible” over the coming days in regard to workload for players given Dundalk have only got the likes of Daniel Kelly and Darragh Leahy back to full fitness.
“We have to be sensible because we don’t want to go to the well and then bang, you’ve got four injuries, so we’ll see how their bodies are in the morning and then we’ll have a chat with the medical staff and we’ll see where we go then in regards to team selection on Monday and then with a journey up to Derry the following Friday so we’ll have to just weigh everything up and go from there.”
Up next for Dundalk is another home game against Shelbourne. With the two most recent meetings between the sides ending scoreless, O’Donnell is under no illusions as to the challenge his team faces despite such an emphatic win over a Pats side who beat Shels 1-0 last week.
“They’ll sit in, they’ll sort of be in their banks of five at times, so that poses its own problems but they’ll carry a threat as well, they’ve Jack Moylan, they’ve Matty Smith, very good attacking players so they’ll carry a threat and will be hard to break down.”
With over 6,000 fans turning out at Oriel Park for the first two home games of the season, O’Donnell issued a plea for similar support on Monday with the Dundalk boss aware that the atmosphere for Monday night games can be a little flat at times.
“It could be one of those where we need the supporters to give us that little bit as it has the potential to be one of those games where it can meander into a flat atmosphere if we are struggling to penetrate but I don’t think we can do anymore tonight in regards the performance and result to have a good crowd on Monday.”
O’Donnell was clearly pumped up following the full-time whistle against St.Pats after a week again dominated by discussions surrounding O’Donnell’s acrimonious Richmond Park departure. Asked how much Friday’s win meant personally, O’Donnell produced a wry smile as he attempted to play down suggestions he may have enjoyed this win in particular.
“Wins do (mean a lot), especially against a top team, wins are wins, I was the same all of last year, it’s great, I mean you work your whole week towards Friday night so it’s good when it comes together and we perform well and you send everyone home happy.”
“It’s probably the only time I get a little bit of that feeling of what it used to be like when you were a player so I’m probably trying to hold onto that a little bit”, said a jovial O’Donnell.
Hear the full interview with Stephen O’Donnell on the Between the Stripes Members Club, here.
Also on the Members Club is a full match report from last night’s game and an interview with Dundalk striker Pat Hoban. Join our Members Club for access to exclusive LOI content throughout the season! Join here.