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25 Sept 2022

Stephen O’Donnell standing by decision to rejig Dundalk midfield

Stephen O'Donnell vs Bohs

Dundalk head coach Stephen O'Donnell. (Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile)

Headline: O’Donnell standing by decision to rejig midfield

Stephen O’Donnell has defended his decision to make a flurry of changes throughout Friday night’s SSE Airtricity League fixture between UCD and Dundalk FC in Belfield.

The Lilywhites took the lead through Keith Ward’s freekick on 40 minutes, but that was before Thomas Lonergan equalised for The Students six minutes into the second half.

That shock leveller from strugglers UCD prompted Dundalk head coach O’Donnell to make a drastic triple-substitution, as John Mountney, Paul Doyle and John Martin were all summoned to replace Lewis Macari, Alfie Lewis and David McMillan respectively.

“I just felt we were losing control of the game when they had pegged us back to 1-1,” explained O’Donnell.

“I wanted to inject, get fresh legs into the game. I thought we did look leggy all over the pitch. The main thought process was trying to inject a little bit of energy and legs into the game and get fresh legs up.”

Those changes seemed to have done the trick, as just four minutes later, Dundalk hit the front once more through Steven Bradley, who bagged his sixth goal of the campaign.

Ryan O’Kane played a huge part in that goal, but was himself taken off on 68 minutes, to be replaced by on-loan Norwegian winger Runar Hauge, and Dundalk simply crumbled after that, conceding twice in the last ten minutes, as UCD ran out surprise 3-2 winners.

“I just felt Ryan was getting a little bit fatigued looking,” added O’Donnell. “He got a little bang midway through the second half, as well.  He was limping a bit.

“I’m just conscious, as well, of Ryan being a young player. He’s had a big output against Sligo, played 90 minutes with ten men and then went again for 90 minutes last week against Shelbourne, so we need to just protect Ryan a little bit, too.

“That’s the first time he’s been open to that amount of games from a minutes point of view. That was the main reason behind that. I just felt he was getting a little bit tired and just carrying a knock and basically just wanted to protect him.”

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