'One Dundalk player who did not suffer any inhibitions on Sunday was Tom McConville'. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Dundalk dropped a point in their game with St. Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park on Sunday last, when they only managed a 2-2 draw.
Once again it was a lesson to us not to build hopes on the result of games to come; from the turn of the league, people have been calculating how many points Dundalk should get from their remaining games, and it is really a futile exercise.
This was one game many thought would bring a couple of comfortable points, though all the omens were against it. It is years since Dundalk won at Richmond Park and if we wanted a pointer from this year’s games we remember that it was by the skin of their teeth that Dundalk got a draw in their game with St. Pat’s in Oriel Park.
It was always on the cards that St. Pat’s (we say, might) make this a tough fixture for Dundalk. But as things turned out, the game should have resulted in an easy win for us.
Dundalk were completely on top of St. Pat’s for most of the game, and really played some of their best brand of football.
What went wrong, then? For a start, they were unable once again to get the ball in the net often enough. It is right that they got two goals, but a fair measure of their superiority would have been five. Then, the St. Pat’s goals were completely against the run of play, and their share of the game. One was definitely a bit of atrocious bad luck, and the other slightly less atrocious - for Dundalk, of course.
The effect of this dropped point is that Dundalk have fallen another point behind Finn Harps, and a two points advantage for a team like Harps at this stage in the competition won’t easily be pulled back. If Dundalk are yet to win the league, they must drop no more points which, on the cards, they should win; and Harps must drop at least a couple.
One Dundalk player who did not suffer any inhibitions on Sunday was Tom McConville. He had a smashing game, as he raided up the wings, smashed through the centre, worked hard in midfield, and back in defence. Few if any of the other defenders looked anything out of the ordinary, and certainly, in matters of defence, they did not have to be.
It was in midfield where Dundalk were well served, with Seán McLaughlin and Seamus McDowell playing great stuff. It was no fault of theirs that Dundalk should have been left so long without a goal, so the blame must lie mostly with the advance men.
Neither Tony Cavanagh nor Jimmy Dainty were anywhere near their best, though it must be said that they suffered from the difficulties created by the frozen pitch and cramped conditions.
The cat was among the pigeons when, in the 64th minute, St. Patrick’s went a goal up. A long clearance from the Pat’s defence, found just one forward up, with at least two defenders facing him.
When he played the ball, it seemed to deflect off one of the Dundalk players, and as luck would have it, ran to Pat’s winger, Conway, who scored just inside the upright.
Dundalk resumed their all-out attack on the Pat’s defence, but things were looking black when Cavanagh sent over yet another corner kick, and this time found Flanagan unmarked and he nodded it in for the equaliser.
This Dundalk goal was only the introduction to a frenzy of incidents in the next two minutes.
In one of their very infrequent attacks, Pat’s got ahead again in a manner which raised the hair on Dundalk supporters’ heads.
A harmless ball into the Dundalk goal area could easily have been cleared, but each left it to the other and a Pat’s player, Byrne, seized on it to turn it out to Conway who scored again.
Once again, Dundalk pegged Pat’s back in a last ditch assault and in another minute, they were level again. It came when Jack McManus sent the ball into a crowded goalmouth, and Flanagan got his foot to the ball to force it home.
As it turned out, Dundalk won their first league title in nine seasons, finishing four points clear of Harps, with a record of 15 wins, 10 draws and just a solitary loss, away to Cork Celtic, 2-1.