STEPHEN O’Donnell said that Dundalk’s fine start to the season means that opposition sides will ‘set their stall out defensively’ when they come up against the Lilywhites.
Shelbourne were the latest side to try and frustrate Stephen Kenny’s men when they arrived to Oriel Park on Friday night.
And the tactic of containment almost paid off for the league’s basement side until Tiarnan Mulvenna popped up with an 87th minute winner for Dundalk.
“It was tough”, said O’Donnell afterwards. “I think it’s a complement to us and the way we have been playing. I don’t think they would have been doing that in the first few games of the season.
“They set their stall out defensively and were trying to catch us on the break. Those kind of games are always difficult but we kept persevering and thankfully it paid off.
“The same happened against Bray last week”, he added. “They sat back and let us try and break them down and it’s up with us to come up with ideas to try and do that. Thankfully we did at the end. Those wins are better than the ones that you win three or four nil.”
O’Donnell did more than anyone to try and break Shelbourne’s resistance before Mulvenna’s strike. The former Shamrock Rovers midfielder hit the woodwork twice leaving him with the feeling that it might not be Dundalk’s night.
“I thought the volley at the end was going over but it dipped right at the end and hit the bar. We would have looked at that as two points dropped if we didn’t score.
“It looked like it was going to be one of those frustrating nights but you see with the great teams that they keep going right to the end. How many times have you see Manchester United do it over the years?”
It was not the first time this season that Dundalk have finished strongly. O’Donnell put that down to the attitude and fitness of the squad and paid tribute to Strength and Conditioning Coach Graham Byrne’s work in pre-season.
“It shows the mentality that we have. We are really fit. We did a tough pre-season with Graham and that is paying dividends now. We seem to be staying with teams and finishing stronger than them during games.”
The result moved Dundalk to within six points of the top of the table but O’Donnell was refusing to get carried away.
“We’ll take it game by game. The teams above us have Europe coming up so you never know what will happen. We have things like the League Cup and the Leinster Cup coming up so our squad will be pushed to the limit. We’re just enjoying ourselves at the minute.”