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18 Aug 2022

The Commentary Box: National media continuing to undermine anything associated with Dundalk

The Commentary Box: National media continuing to undermine anything associated with Dundalk

Current Ireland manager and former head coach at Dundalk FC Stephen Kenny. (Pic: Sportsfile)

Dundalk fought out a tough battle against Shelbourne at Tolka Park and in the end came away with a valuable point last Friday night. In the league table they did slip to seven points behind Shamrock Rovers as the champions edged out Bohemians in the Dublin Derby.

Dundalk have found Shels a difficult nut to crack this season. Before Friday’s game the Lilywhites won with a late goal against Damian Duff’s side at Oriel and drew with then 1-1 in Tolka Park.

On Friday they created a huge amount of chances but could not find the net. They were missing their captain and star striker Pat Hoban. It’s a mystery to me why the manager Stephen O’Donnell would not say what type of injury Hoban has.

There was nothing in the usual weekly team news email sent out to reporters the day before the game to say that he would be missing through injury. That’s nothing surprising as maybe he was injured on the day of the game.

But when it was put to Stephen O’Donnell after the game on Friday what type of injury the player has, he said I do not have to say. He expressed hope that he would have his striker back for next Friday’s game against UCD at Oriel.

This leaves me to think that whatever injury Pat Hoban has may leave him side lined. I say this as usually Dundalk do disclose whatever injury a player has. The fact that O’Donnell also left a doubt about him being fit for next Friday’s game in Oriel suggests to me maybe he will be out for a while.

Very often we are told a long term injured player will be fit for the next game even though said player could still be a number of weeks away from full recovery. The fact that Hoban is doubtful for next Friday leaves me thinking he could be out for some time.

Stephen O’Donnell of course was correct to say that he did not have to say what type of injury Hoban has. But I found this highly unusual as the normal practice is for the club to disclose the injury the player has. That Dundalk have not said anything only allows fans to worry and journalists to speculate.

Dundalk were their usual strong selves at the back against Shelbourne. Nathan Shepperd bossed his box all night. He had little to do. But he still had to set up his defenders the way he wanted to have them organized. Any Shelbourne efforts were dealt with very well by the young keeper.

Dundalk’s two exciting wing backs Darragh Leahy and Lewis Macari caused problems throughout the night for Shelbourne, producing a number of goal chances. Andy Boyle and Mark Connolly were at their usual top-class form.

Strong Attack

Paul Doyle, Robbie Benson, Greg Sloggett and Daniel Kelly did very well in midfield on Friday night. David McMillan also linked up well with his midfield and defenders in his role as striker. It was a tough night for David in many ways as he has not been a regular starter for Dundalk this season.

David was replaced by John Martin with a half an hour to go while Keith Ward replaced Paul Doyle. It was a real war of attrition in Friday night’s game as both sides looked to wrestle possession from each other, trying to assert each other as the dominant force.

But it was Dundalk, who were on top for most of the game, who cut the Shelbourne defence apart on a number of occasions. Dundalk asserted themselves into the game from the 15th minute.

The chances created were golden. Stephen Bradley broke clear down the wing. He cut inside and fired an unstoppable shot narrowly wide. Bradley had one of his best games for Dundalk for some time.

Lewis Macari also went close for Dundalk. The chance of the game came on 34 minutes. There was great passing between Andy Boyle and Daniel Kelly. Kelly set Robbie Benson up with a great pass.

From eight yards out with the goals at his mercy Benson curled the ball into the near side netting. Everybody in the ground thought it was a goal. Within seconds there was a realization that Dundalk has missed a clear-cut chance.

In the second half Dundalk continued the pressure. Just minutes into the second half Lewis Macari got a cross in from the right. David McMillan met the ball with a header. It was a definite chance that came and went.

With 15 minutes remaining Darragh Leahy put in a great cross from the right. It was aimed for Robbie Benson in the box. He just failed to connect. John Martin got in for Dundalk again minutes later. This time he just failed to pull the trigger for the much-needed goal.

Ryan O’Kane got in for another chance with a minute remaining. With the goal at his mercy in injury time, Ryan shot over. It was the first time Dundalk have failed to score a goal in a game since the 18th of April.

Stephen O’Donnell was right in his post-match comments. He said Dundalk had some good spells of domination. But they did have the chances to win the game. However, all in all, getting a point away from home against a tough team like Shelbourne was very positive.

Dundalk have only lost twice in the league from 20 games. This is an excellent record. This Friday Dundalk play bottom of the table side UCD. They held Dundalk to a 2-2 draw at the Belfield Bowl in Dublin last time the sides met.

On Friday the Students were beaten at home by Derry City by a penalty 1-0. They are involved in almighty scrap with Finn Harps to avoid the automatic relegation spot. On Friday Harps came from 2-0 down at Ballybofey to get a late equaliser and a draw against Pats.

UCD will provide stern opposition. Let’s hope the skipper Pat Hoban is fit and can be there to score and create goals. Dundalk cannot do without the Hobanator.

National Media Bias?

The National media outlets really irked me this week. In last Monday week’s Irish Daily Star, Roddy Collins basically sent out his own message to Shamrock Rovers fans following their 1-0 defeat to Dundalk, basically dismissing Stephen O’Donnell’s team.

Collins admitted that he expected Rovers would get their third title. He said the Hoops were still the team to beat and told Rovers fans not to panic.

Stuart Byrne in a column in a daily paper said Rovers will win the league and that no team cobbled together so quickly like Dundalk could win a league title.

Well Stuart, Stephen Kenny came to Oriel Park in December 2012 when the club was on its knees. He put together a team in a matter of weeks that came second in the league and got Europe. In 2014 Kenny’s so called cobbled together team won the League and League Cup.

What really irks me is that these guys rarely see beyond Shamrock Rovers or another Dublin team. Dundalk have only lost twice this season in the league. Shamrock Rovers have lost four times.

Chances are Rovers will win the league. Dundalk are rebuilding after they nearly went to the wall last season. Stephen O’Donnell has done a magnificent job this season. To have Dundalk in a European spot in the league is magnificent.

They have won six games out of their last eight. They drew the other two. I have seen Rovers three times this season. I have not been bowled over by the way they play. They beat Dundalk 1-0 in Tallaght in March.

Dundalk of course beat them last week. Rovers were made to look a bit ordinary throughout the game. They deserved nothing from that game. I also saw Drogheda United beat Rovers at United Park a few weeks ago.

The Drogs won by a goal from the penalty spot. Rovers certainly do not look anything special. However, they are put on a pedestal by many in the Dublin media as being world beaters.

In two columns I saw this week, one writer had the cheek to say Rovers have no competition here. Well they will have next season when O’Donnell gets a chance to consolidate and continue the rebuild.

Stephen Kenny

I was also left fuming when I saw Stephen Kenny come under a more sustained attack in the Dublin media. Roddy Collins says Kenny fans are living in a wonderland and that results do not match fans love for the Ireland boss. Collins says Kenny’s results are not up to muster.

He says the three competitive wins against Scotland, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg are abysmal. Well to Roddy I say you are in no position to criticize managers. Your record at club teams was not great as a manager.

You even took a club down from the premier Division in the League of Ireland to the First Division. Your dabbling at managing English clubs has not exactly been a success either.

After the defeat to Armenia, I agreed that Kenny’s job was on the line. Not that I would have agreed with the decision. But his team came out a few days after the defeat in Armenia and hammered Scotland.

They then drew with the Ukraine away from home. Those results gave Stephen the reprieve he needed. He will do a good job. He does not have to be continually undermined. Stephen has three main critics In the Dublin media.

They are excellent people, and they know their football. But they don’t know their international soccer if they think Kenny should go. Last Sunday week I was listening to Newstalk. There was one person criticizing Stephen Kenny.

I was in my car in Donegal. I nearly blew a fuse. Off the ball were once again taking about Stephen Kenny for the umpteenth time since the draw with the Ukraine. I had hoped the criticism had died down since the summer matches in the Nations League were completed.

Why in God’s name were they discussing it again. Kenny did enough in his last two Nations League games to steady the ship. I could not understand why he was being debated about again. We are all entitled to our views. And these reporters are entitled to theirs.

However, I do not agree with them. In fairness I can be very critical of managers. I have been in the past and will be in the future. That’s why football is such a great game.

But in the case of Stephen Kenny, it’s my view that the people who want him out should be met head on by those who know the right thing for him to do is to stay.

Final Thoughts

The filming for the Jimmy Hasty documentary has been completed. Richard Milway of the Noah Media group is in charge. They spent time in Belfast where Jimmy was from and where he was murdered by loyalist terrorists.

They were in Newry talking to old teammates of Jimmy. They came to Dundalk to interview a number of people including John Murphy, another of Jimmy’s old teammates.

John was on the 1962-63 league team with the late Jimmy. The documentary makers interviewed John in Oriel Park. Paddy Malone, son of the late Jim Malone who signed Jimmy was also interviewed. The documentary will be shown sometime shortly before Christmas.

Finally, the Sporting world came together to sympathize with Stephen Bradley, manager of Shamrock Rovers, whose eight-year-old son is ill. Stephen was not at the recent game in Oriel Park because of this.

He told reporters on Thursday that there will be more games that he will miss because of his child’s illness. There was a minute’s applause at the Rovers vs Bohs game on Friday in an act of solidarity and support for the Shamrock Rovers manager.

Hopefully Stephen will get good news soon that his child is recovering. The Dubliner told the reporters that family must always come first. Have a safe week .And please remember to be careful out there.

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