05 Jul 2022

Stephen O’Donnell in a realistic mood following Dundalk's away win to Finn Harps

Gerry Malone speaks to Dundalk manager Stephen O'Donnell following the match

Stephen O’Donnell in a realistic mood following Dundalk's away win to Finn Harps

Dundalk FC Head coach Stephen O'Donnell. (Pic; Sportsfile)

Speaking after a great 1-0 win over Finn Harps in Ballybofey, Donegal on Monday night, which saw his side close the gap on leaders Shamrock Rovers to eight points and leave them with a game in hand on the champions, Dundalk manager Stephen O’Donnell was in a realistic mood.

They can also move in to clear second place if they can win their game in hand as the victory against Finn Harps on Monday night leaves them just a single point behind Derry City.

Stephen O’Donnell says he is not even thinking of anything else but just Dundalk looking after themselves and that he is not thinking of anything beyond the next game.

He says it was a good battling win and that he thought his side had the best of the chances.The Dundalk boss says it was always going to be a different type of game from the one played against Derry City at the Brandywell, which Dundalk also won less than 72 hours earlier. He told me that he would have snapped my hand off if he had been told Dundalk would get six points from their two games in the North West.

Stephen says he left Robbie Benson, Mark Connolly and Stephen Bradley on the bench as he had to freshen things up. He says his players are not machines. Usually the Dundalk boss does not make any changes to a team that wins the previous game. But this team have  a tough schedule in eight days. He was right when he says that given the tough schedule of games it was important to make the changes. O’Donnell says this was especially so with the game against St Patrick’s Athletic in mind coming up on Friday in Oriel.

The Dundalk manager says Nathan Shepherd had an excellent game, taking off a succession of fine saves which were key to Dundalk getting the three points on Monday night. He was very impressed at the way Nathan was on the front foot throughout the game and also with the aggression he put in to his goalkeeping on the night.

The Dundalk boss said that Ballybofey was the type of place, and it was the type of game, where his keeper would have learned a lot about League of Ireland football. Shepherd took off the save of the night only minutes after Daniel Kelly’s 54th minute goal. Finn Harps captain Ethan Boyle collected the ball 30 yards out from goal. He unleashed a screamer of a shot which was bound for the net the moment it left his boot. Somehow Shepherd got a hand to the ball tipping it over the crossbar.

The Dundalk boss said he was very happy with the playing surface. He said it was good. A lot of rain had fallen in the Ballybofey area in the previous 24 hours. The pitch there usually does not soak up the rainfall as the drainage is not particularly great. But Stephen had no complaints about the pitch on Monday night. 

I suggested to the Dundalk boss that sometimes a team has to win ugly to get the points. He maintained his point that Dundalk had created the better of the chances and who got a good goal.

Stephen says he was just happy where Dundalk are at coming up to the break, which starts on Friday after the Pat’s game. The season will resume on 17th June with a home game against champions Shamrock Rovers. The Dundalk manager says the fact that his side had only won their first game away from last Friday never bothered him. Until then his team was beaten twice but had drawn five on the road. Stephen O’Donnell says he always knew Dundalk would start winning games away from home and that it was never going to be a problem.

Dundalk travelled home from the north-west knowing how successful a weekend it was and that they are in pole position to continue their battle to secure a place in European football for the 2023 season.

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