AFTER watching Dundalk Youths book a Ferrari Cup final spot on Sunday morning, Oriel Park Head of Youth Development Martin Connolly is hoping that his U19 side can follow suit when they meet Bohemians in the Enda McGuill Cup semi-final at Dalymount Park on Tuesday night.
The U19 Cup represents Dundalk’s last chance of silverware after their league title hopes come to an end with a 3-0 defeat to leaders Finn Harps in their previous outing.
Connolly said the loss was a disappointing end to a promising league campaign and although cup success would be welcome, he said there was a bigger picture to look at.
“The one thing I say to people here is that the first-team game on Friday night is the most important. The more players we can get into the first-team, is more important than anything for us.
“The game against Finn Harps was changed to Finn Valley and the pitch was disgraceful. The referee put it in his match report that it was dangerous. When you’re going to play the league leaders, short of seven players, then it’s going to be a tough task. We did well and got to half-time at 0-0 but it was maybe asking too much of the lads.
“It’s disappointing but we see the U19 League as a means to the end if you will. One of the players we were missing was Ben McLaughlin, who played 72 minutes for the first team the night before against UCD, so we didn’t mind that at all.
“Kevin Loughran didn’t play so he could play for the Youth team in a Leinster quarter-final the following day. They won and are now in the last four of a major tournament. In that sense it beneficial to both lads and more important to us than the U19 game.
Bob McKenna should be fit for the Dalyer clash after playing for the Youths in their semi-final win on Sunday. Connolly is also expected to have Ben McLaughlin and Chris Reilly, both who have featured for Sean McCaffrey’s first-team this campaign, available for selection.
“Ben was immense against UCD on his debut. There are a lot of positives about him. I’ve had him since he was 10 with the representative teams with Dundalk. He is a very good listener and takes advice on board very well.
“Anybody who saw him agains UCD will have been shocked when they found out he was only 16 because he looked far more mature than that. He comes from a family steeped in League of Ireland football so his feet will be kept firmly on the ground. There won’t be a problem with him in that sense.
“The next step is to manage him properly. I don’t think we can expect him to play 30 games in a row at this level but there is no better man to manage him that Sean McCaffrey so we will see how it goes with Ben.
“Chris Reilly has also done really well when he has come in. He has injected pace and he very seldom gives the ball away. We had Bob McKenna in the squad as well for the first couple of games and he did okay when he came on against St Pat’s. Because Bob is a goalscorer, everybody expects him to be the next big thing but I’m always slow to heap that praise on a fella.
“Judging by the game Bohs played against Shelbourne recently, we could be in for another difficult surface. It didn’t look good at all. Dalymount Park is very unforgiving, it’s very big and even bigger again for younger players. The one thing about all these young lads is that their attitude is excellent and we are very lucky when it comes to that.”