ONE imagines that there was plenty of celebratory phone calls being made from the west coast of Ireland to Dundalk on Friday night following the Lilywhites’ 2-0 win over Cork City at Oriel Park.
Goals from former Mervue United duo John Mountney and Pat Hoban shot down the Rebels in front of the RTE cameras and secured Dundalk their first home win of the campaign.
And speaking afterwards, Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny paid tribute to the attitude and commitment of his goalscoring youngsters.
“Those two lads live together locally, close to the ground, so the breakfast will taste a little nicer in their house on Saturday morning”, he quipped.
“It’s difficult coming from the west of Ireland to live in Dundalk and then to find yourself out of the team”, added Kenny. “They are bright lads and they’re putting their life on hold to move up and try and push into the team. That requires a degree of mental strength and a degree of positivity.
“John is 19 and has left his family in Mayo. Pat is 20 and from Galway. That is a huge commitment. There are other aspects of their lives that they could be pursuing like education or work.
“They are here on relatively small contracts just because they are ambitious and want to be the best they can be at football. They want to make it and I’m delighted they got the goals.
“The goals are being spread around the team. Pat got his first goal for the club tonight. John got one goal, in the FAI Cup, last season but he has two league goals already this year.”
Mountney’s strike was real quality, a flashing left footed volley to the top corner. Hoban’s, on the other hand, was a real striker’s effort, guiding the ball into the corner of the net with his head after Keith Ward’s free-kid has crashed off the crossbar.
“John is a right footed player and has a great dig on him, as they say, mainly on his right foot”, said Kenny. “To hit it like that, on his weaker foot is a great finish.
“Pat’s was a great goal also”, he added. “The ball was in the air for a long time. Normally it’s hard to get a good connection with that. You have to injecto all the power in it yourself and he directed it right into the corner.”
Mountney’s goal came just six minutes after Tiarnan Mulvenna missed a glorious opportunity to put Dundalk ahead and Kenny said he never doubted his team’s ability to finish the game strongly.
“We still felt we could win it. There is no point thinking ‘tonight’s not our night’. You have to keep going and have the ability to go to the end. We got two goals in the last 15 minutes again and that’s a recurring theme. To be fair to the players, that’s great.”
As well as going forward, Dundalk also impressed at the back. Similar to their previous game, a 2-0 win over Bohemians in Dalymount Park, Peter Cherrie did not have a save to make as Cork City were made to look very ordinary, a fact that delighted the Lilywhites boss.
“That’s the area we’ve improved on”, said Kenny. “Our football has been consistent but when you’re giving goals away you are giving teams a leg up and giving them confidence.
“Our home displays have been very good but we were letting ourselves down by conceding stupid goals that teams weren’t working hard enough for. We had a meeting about that and a serious chat about it.
“The difference now is thatour defending has been very cohesive. Players were playing well individually but as a back four we were still conceding goals. The last two weeks, as a unit, we have been very cohesive and players are covering each other well.”
The result leaves Dundalk sitting comfortably in 4th place with just one game left in the first series of games. When asked how far his team could go, Kenny refused to make any ‘rash predictions’ and said his focus was now turning to picking up three points against Bray Wanderers next Friday.
“You can never tell”, he said. “You can lose key players through injury and all that. There is no point making rash predictions. We have to back it up, not talk about how good we are.
“We have to come in next week and prepare for Bray on Friday. The Carlisle Grounds can be a graveyard for teams if you’re not prepared right. At some stage every team gets beaten there. We’ll tailor training accordingly to make sure we’re fresh for the challenge.”