Keith Ward believes that Tiarnán Mulvenna’s performance off the bench at UCD on Saturday night should see him start in the Louth Derby this week, with the wee midfielder “delighted” to see his teammate find the net.
Mulvenna scored within 60 seconds of his introduction against the Students at the weekend before playing a part in John Dillon’s goal just three minutes later, as Dundalk came through a real battle at the UCD Bowl.
Having survived a number of scares throughout, with Peter Cherrie in good form to deny the home side, Mulvenna’s introduction on 76 minutes proved the match-winning change.
And, thrilled for the local striker, Ward was also relieved to come away with a valuable three points against his former club.
“I was delighted for Tiarnán,” Ward said afterwards. “He is the type of player who is a real impact player and he loves running in behind.
“Everyone was delighted for him, especially with it being his first time this season coming on. It can only help him. He’s great to have around the dressing room and he’s a local lad, so we’re all delighted for him.
“He has been around the league a few years and he’s definitely good enough to start.
“It’s not a bad thing to come on and score, but I think if he comes on and scores then he has to start the next game, especially with setting up the second goal as well.
“I thought it was a bit of a scrappy game because of the pitch. Both teams are footballing teams but they struggled to get it down and play well.
“I thought, in the end, we did well to dig out a win because it wasn’t an easy game. We’re delighted to come away with the three points, especially with the pitch being so bad. You take it as it comes and we’re glad to come away with the win.
“There wasn’t much in the game, to be fair. They had a chance with a one-on-one where Pete made a great save. Maybe, it the end we deserved it because we took our chances and they didn’t take theirs.
“Obviously, we’d rather win by passing the ball around but I would say the manager is more than happy, with the game like that being scrappy.
“The game came so quick that we didn’t really have much time to dwell on the defeat against Sligo. We’re looking up the table again after this win and looking forward to the next game.
“If you had looked at it at the start of the season, you probably would have taken seven points from 12, playing two of the top teams from last year in Shamrock Rovers and Sligo – you’re not really expected to beat them.
“If we beat the teams around us and nick a few points off the top teams, we’ll do well this year.”
The game was the second in a row where Dundalk were without club captain Stephen O’Donnell, who has been a key figure for the side this season having arrived from Shamrock Rovers.
And, while admitting that the midfielder was missed, Ward has been impressed by John Mountney, who earned his first league start of the campaign on Saturday.
“Stephen has probably been our best player so far this season. He is great to have around the place as well,” Keith said.
“His ability in passing the ball and he has looked very fit and slim this year, because he has had bad luck with injuries before. We have missed him. I think any team would miss his ability.
“But I think John Mountney coming in has been excellent. He’s a tough lad and he gets around the park. Richie Towell too has been excellent as well.
“We’ve missed Stephen but the lads have dug in and put in some great performances.”
Ward, though, feels that he has yet to reach top gear this season, with the 22-year-old keen to rediscover his form of old.
“I’m not really happy with how I’ve been playing,” he admitted. “I’ve been a bit up and down. I don’t think I’ve settled yet as well as I’d have liked.
“But once we’re putting in performances, it’s not about me, it’s about the team. Obviously, I’d like to be playing a little bit better, but if we keep winning, I don’t really mind at the end of the day.”
Now, Dundalk face into Thursday’s Louth Derby against Drogheda United, a fixture that Ward has fond memories of from 2011, after scoring a fabulous goal from 25-yards in the FAI Cup replay between the sides that August.
“There should be a good crowd – I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Drogheda haven’t started that well so that will probably make it a bigger game.
“We’re all looking forward to it – hopefully a big crowd comes out. It will be interesting.
“I scored that one and I remember Quigs (Mark Quigley) got a cracker as well. I have good memories of it. I always seem to do well when I play against Drogheda. Hopefully, we can pick up another win and keep looking up the table.”