25 Sept 2022

GERRY MALONE: Could groundshare with Drogheda solve Dundalk stadium woes?

Gerry Malone reflects on a memorable week of European football and looks at the club’s stuttering league form and a stadium solution

GERRY MALONE: Could groundshare with Drogheda solve Dundalk stadium woes?

It was some week for Dundalk and was certainly one with a European flavour.

On Thursday the Oriel Park men were at the Emirates Stadium in North London where they played their second group stage game in the Europa League.

On Sunday it was back to basics though, as Dundalk went looking for a win at Inchicore in Dublin against St.Patrick's Athletic. Three points there would be enough to sew up their place in the Europa League for next season and complete the second reason why Fillipo Giovagnoli was given the job as manager when Vinny Perth was let go by Peak6.

On Thursday night Dundalk played very well at times against an Arsenal team that took their chances when they came their way.

It was a game the Gunners dominated from beginning to end. Yet despite this, Dundalk did not get the mauling that many feared.

Indeed, Patrick McEleney brought out the best in Arsenal keeper Runar Rúnarsson midway through the first half when his 30 yard shot was saved by the Icelandic international.

But the game took its toll on the Dundalk midfielder as he was replaced after aggravating a recurrent injury he picked up in the FAI cup final of 2018.

It was clear that Patrick had suffered a recurrence of a hamstring that has kept him sidelined many times since the 2018 final.

The news was not good on Saturday when reports suggested Dundalk would be without their best midfielder for the rest of the season.

Whether that is the case or not, one can only wait and see. All Dundalk supporters can do is wish him well in his recovery.

The manager's team choice surprised me. Giovagnoli left out Sean Gannon and Darragh Leahy. Instead he had Cameron Dummigan playing at left full when he is a right-footed player.

He also played three centre halves in Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle and Daniel Cleary.

It was clear from the start that Filippo was going to try and soak up pressure from Arsenal and hit them on the break. This manager's philosophy is so different to that of Stephen Kenny.

Kenny would have taken the game to Arsenal. Shots like the one Patrick McEleaney had would have been many.

Instead, it was Arsenal who piled forward. The Dundalk defence, to their credit, had very little to deal with until late in the first half when they pushed the self destruct button we were all waiting for them to do.

With just three minutes to the break England under 21 leading goalscorer Eddie Nketiah made no mistake after Gary Rogers came to punch a corner and got nowhere near the ball. It ricocheted off a defender. Nketiah steered the ball home.

My heart went out to Gary Rogers as in the opening half hour he had pulled off a superb save from a Sead Kolasinac shot that looked bound for the net.

Dundalk's plight got worse two minutes after. Nketiah was gifted a terrible clearance. Nicolas Pepe latched on to a pass. His shot was blocked and came out to Joe Willcock who shot home.

The third goal came a minute after the break. Nicolas Pepe fired home an unstoppable shot to the net giving Gary Rogers no chance.

The Dundalk manager took off Sean Murray, Chris Shields, and Michael Duffy - needing them for Sunday's game against Pat's. Patrick McEleney was also taken off.

Dundalk did create Europa League history as they became the first team in the revamped competition's history not to have conceded a foul.

Filippo said he was very pleased to have achieved the record.There were rumours on social media that UEFA were going to give Dundalk €150,000 for having broken the record.

But football is about winning games. Dundalk were well beaten on Thursday by a mainly reserve Arsenal that was itself made up of many international players.

Stephen Kenny's teams would have gone at this Arsenal team. Dundalk were never overawed by the big names and the big teams. Sadly everybody spoke of how well Dundalk did. But they were beaten and it could have been a lot more had Arsenal decided to go looking for more goals.

To be fair, the current Dundalk team would not compare to the great 2016 team that also got to the group stages. And the current team deserves full credit for their achievement .

Dundalk won't take up their quarter final clash with Bohemians in the cup until after the league finishes next Sunday with the home game against Sligo Rovers.

But they already know who they will play in the semi final as the draw was made on Thursday.

The winners of the Dundalk/Bohemians clash are away to Athlone Town. The first division team hammered premier division side Shelbourne 4-1 in the first of the quarter final games.

I read a very interesting piece in the Irish Daily Mail on Friday that made me think and think.

It was back to the old chestnut of a new stadium for Dundalk. Philip Quinn rightly said that complaints from Bill Hullsizer about the cost of hiring out Tallaght Stadium recently and the Aviva for the Europa League games brought up the stadium issue again. Philip said his complaints deflected from the real issue if he is to leave a legacy for the ages on his Dundalk watch.

Philip says what I say. It’s time to either revamp Oriel or find a new home.

They had their chance to get a brand new stadium at DKIT but never went for it.

Quinn says with Drogheda United now promoted Louth have two premier division teams. Dundalk and Drogheda are just 35 kilometres apart. Neither club has a ground that would win a beauty contest, never mind pass scrutiny for meaningful European matches.

Philip asks why don't the two clubs knock their heads together and press ahead with a spanking new ground-share facility.

Philip does say there is a logic to selling off Oriel and United Park and sharing the proceeds to fund a Tallaght-type stadium.

However this is where Philip's theory develops it's first problem. Neither club owns their own ground. Dundalk lease Oriel from the Casey family while the FAI own United park in Drogheda.

But Philip is right when he says it would be far easier to get planning permission and funding for a municipal stadium for the two clubs rather than go it alone.

Drogheda are already light years ahead in planning for a 5,000 all-seater stadium on the Termonfeckin road outside Drogheda.

Philip Quinn says rightly that Dundalk seem to be caught in a time warp over Oriel. He adds, Bohemians and Shelbourne are set to co-share when Dalymount Park gets its facelift.

Why, he asks, can Dundalk and Drogheda not do something similar?

Quinn finishes by saying it would be to their mutual benefit.

I wish it were all as simple as that. But I can never see Drogheda and Dundalk agreeing to share a state of the art stadium. At least I can't see the supporters agreeing.

Certainly when I even mentioned Dundalk possibly moving to the DKIT to a brand new stadium, the opposition among supporters was clear. It was a. revamped Oriel or nothing. Supporters said it was the home of football. Others said DKIT was too far for a new stadium. This is absolutely nonsense.

I can't see Dundalk supporters wanting to share a stadium with Drogheda as they are regarded as the auld enemy.

Drogheda fans would feel exactly the same about Dundalk.

Personally I think this petty tribalism is nonsense. Peak6's only chance of getting a new stadium with proper funding is the one stadium theory put forward by Philip Quinn.

But then comes the factor of where a new stadium can be located. The Termonfeckin road would never be a runner in Dundalk.

It would have to be located midway between Dundalk and Drogheda. Possibly a location just north of Dunleer and close to the M1.

Dundalk could still keep Oriel Park and use it as a full soccer facility. There would be no need to let it go.

We as people from Dundalk should be prepared to travel 11 miles to attend home games in a brand new stadium. Louth County Council could set it as a requirement that should either club turn down the idea there was no funding for any other development either in Drogheda or Dundalk.

Let's make it clear folks. Drogheda have been planning their own stadium for years. Dundalk to my knowledge have nothing on the planning table. This might give Peak6 the opportunity they are looking for. And, as I say, there would be no need to let Oriel go.

But they must act on this idea immediately. They need to contact Drogheda and Louth County Council about the idea.

But if Drogheda and Dundalk bosses are not interested in the project then it's game over.

Dundalk head to Austria on Thursday to take on Rapid Vienna in their third Europa League group game.

Vienna have lost their opening two games against Arsenal and Molde. Dundalk have lost their opening two group stage games as well.

Filippo will fancy his side's chances of getting something from the game. The bookies say otherwise.

News filtered through to Dundalk on Friday that the death took place the night before of former player Tommy Kerr.

Tommy was a member of the 1958 FAI cup winning team against Shamrock Rovers that won 1-0.

Indeed it was his cross that led to the goal scored by Hubbie Gannon.

Tommy was from Drigheda and went on to play for his hometown club when they entered the league in 1963.

Dundalk's week finished with their visit to Inchicore in Dublin on Sunday night against St Pat's.

Dundalk needed to get three points from the game to ensure they will get the European spot next season on the basis that they finish in third place in the league.

Filippo Giovagnoli made five changes from the team that played against Arsenal.

Sean Hoare, Sean Gannon, Darragh Leahy, Greg Slogett and Stefan Colivic made it into the side.

Gary Rogers held his place in goal.

Dundalk went in front on 22 minutes when Pat Hoban tapped home a cross from the right.

Pat's came back at Dundalk and levelled on 64 minutes when Robbie Benson headed home a great cross.

They deserved their goal as they were the better side from the time Dundalk got their goal.

But what concerned me again was the manager making five substitutions. Had he left well enough alone I think Dundalk would have got their priceless winner.

Stefan Colovic was replaced on 55 minutes for Jordan Flores. The move left me wondering why. Then Sean Gannon was taken off for John Mountney and Darragh Leahy was taken off for Cameron Dummigan.

The moves happened just as Robbie Benson returned to haunt Dundalk with the equaliser.

Then with 12 minutes left Filippo left me scratching my head when he took Michael Duffy off for David McMillan. Duffy was the one player that was showing the creativity to conjure up a goal.

At the same time again he took off Daniel Cleary for Andy Boyle. Cleary was doing fine. The amount of the changes changed the complexion and foundation of the team and in the end it filtered out to a draw.

The result means Dundalk must beat Sligo Rovers next Sunday in their quest for Europe. Pats are six points behind Dundalk with a game in hand. Were they to beat Shamrock Rovers on Tuesday night and also win their last game by a decent amount they could still get Europe.

It's unlikely they would catch Dundalk on goal difference, but last night's result brings them into the equation.

Waterford could also snatch third place were Dundalk to drop all three points next Sunday. Fillipo's team are two points clear of the Suirsiders. Defeat for Dundalk would take European qualification out of Dundalk's hands.

The team's form in the league has not been good under Filippo. The Dundalk boss is a very polite, decent and honest man. He gets on very well with the media, his team and any supporters he comes into contact with.

But I'm sorry from what I have seen since Filippo came in as head coach, I'm very clear in my mind that he is not the man to lead Dundalk next season whether they qualify for Europe or not.

But that of course is up to Bill Hulsizer. I fear the decisions he will make given the ones that have been made since he became chairman.

Anyway, Pats play Shamrock Rovers tonight at Tallaght where the Hoops will be crowned champions. Let's hope Rovers win and end Pat's interest in the chase for Europe.

Anyway, Dundalk must travel to Austria this week as I said earlier. I wish them the very best in this crucial game.

Another week is gone. I hope everyone has a safe and healthy week. And please remember to be careful out there.

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