07 Dec 2021

Joe Carroll reflects on a good week for Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny and Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp

Inside Track

Joe Carroll reflects on a good week for Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny and Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp

Dundalk FC manager Stephen Kenny. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)

The last time Inside Track put a focus on Oriel Park was on March 4. The league had just kicked off, and by picking up only one point from each of their first two matches, Dundalk badly needed the huge win they had in the Oriel match with Limerick.

Stephen Kenny's team, however, were still well off the pace being set by their closest rivals of recent years, Cork City, and there was a fear that the gap might open as wide as it did last season. Cork stole a march then, and valiant as the Lilies were in trying to close it, the title was ear-marked for Leeside from a long way out.

Six weeks on from that Limerick rout, the competition having turned into its second quarter, Dundalk find themselves in a much better place. Cork have been dislodged from the top spot, only one goal has been conceded by a rock-solid defence, and the forwards have shown there is more from where the Limerick eight came.

Kenny wouldn't be where he is today if he hadn't got solid instincts and above all the courage to chase them. At a time when his off-season signings were still finding their way about the place, he was reported to have said the team he was assembling had the makings of a best-ever to represent the club. Time will tell, but for now there's no reason to believe the gaffer might not be prone to exaggerating.

There have also been changes across the water in the past month and a half. Okay, so Manchester City aren't going to lose the lead they've held in the Premier League for so long; but they won't be winning what, in their eyes of the Super Six, has become the very big 'un.

Bad enough for Guardiola's side to have lost three on the bounce, but when two of those were in the European League, and, worse still, inflicted by another British club, well, much of the domestic game achievement has had the smile taken off its face.

Some, but not all, Liverpool's supporters were willing to think the tie was in the bag after their side had won the first leg 3-0.

The cautious believed a backlash was a possibility; and when City got in for a goal with the game still to warm up, ripples in the 'Pool turned to waves.

But all was calm in the finish. Well, sort, of. It was a fantastic Liverpool performance, arguably the best since the ebullient Klopp (inset) came about Anfield, and the Kop wasn't slow to show its appreciation.

Meanwhile, the unthinkable happened; Barcelona, Messi et al, surrendered a first-leg 4-1 lead to Roma, and like Man City, were out of the competition. Real Madrid almost took the same road to ignominy.

Dozens of teams gone, just four still standing. The 'Puddle' pulled off an unlikely win in 2005 - can they do it again? The talk around town - Liverpool, that is - last weekend was that they can.

The one very well known to Inside Track whose always going on about "we" and "us" said he wouldn't mind getting Real in the semi-final. Now that they've got Roma he can't take the smile off his face.

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