Can anyone stop Stephen Kenny’s super side?

Padraig Whelan

Reporter:

Padraig Whelan

Dundalk's David McMillian celebrates opening the scoring against Sligo Rovers in the FAI Cup
That cold and wet night in Drogheda at the start of March seems like a world away given the dominant form of Dundalk ever since.

That cold and wet night in Drogheda at the start of March seems like a world away given the dominant form of Dundalk ever since.

A 4-1 humbling on the season’s opening night was a chastening experience and left players dejected but how it looks to have focused Stephen Kenny’s side.

Since then, they have looked unstoppable, even in the face of serious adversity.

The loss of influential captain Stephen O’Donnell to a season-ending injury in April could have crippled their hopes of picking up any trophies this season and lesser sides may have crumbled.

Dundalk, however, slowly found their feet without him and with Chris Shields and Richie Towell performing at a higher level than any other midfield duo in the league, the O’Donnell blow has been a softer one than expected.

The stats for the first three months or so of action alonehave been exceptional.

The Lilywhites sit at the summit of the table, three points clear of their nearest challengers, reached a Setanta Cup final that they dominated for large spells and are through in the EA Sports and FAI Cups respectively, having dumped the holders out of the latter in a merciless manner.

This is without doubt the best team in the country. Look at their league results against the other contenders: A 4-1 win in Inchicore, a 4-0 thrashing of Cork City, a 2-2 draw against Shamrock Rovers (a game they should have won) and convincing wins home and away against Sligo Rovers.

In their competitive matches to date, they have scored a whopping 59 goals and have shipped a mere 22 at the other end.

That alone does not tell the whole story of a team that has arguably been the most enjoyable to watch in this country in the last decade, and perhaps beyond.

Stephen Kenny’s ethos of attacking football and entertainment is a breath of fresh air in an era when a more pragmatic points over pleasure approach is all too easy to take.

Yet he encourages his side to play with a freedom and they are thriving. Look at the opening goal in the 7-0 demolition derby against Drogheda United in May.

How many other teams would be brave enough to attack with such gusto that one full-back (Dane Massey) weaves his way forward to tee up the other (Sean Gannon) to open the scoring in such an important game? Not many.

David McMillan’s contribution highlights the squad ethic that has been instilled.

Without getting too despondent about starting just four league games so far, he has worked hard to win a spot and been rewarded with shooting his way to the top of the team’s scoring charts along with Patrick Hoban.

The rest of the country have their work cut out.