Saturday 10 December 2016

'BATE win is stuff that dreams are made of' - O'Donnell

Published 04/08/2016 | 02:30

Stephen O’Donnell was singled out for special praise by Martin O’Neill after Dundalk’s heroic victory over BATE Borisov on Tuesday night. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Stephen O’Donnell was singled out for special praise by Martin O’Neill after Dundalk’s heroic victory over BATE Borisov on Tuesday night. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Stephen O'Donnell will tune into tomorrow's Champions League draw wondering where the next chapter of Dundalk's remarkable story will bring him.

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The Galwegian was one of the first players recruited by Stephen Kenny when he took over a troubled club at the end of the 2012.

A year earlier, O'Donnell scored the penalty that put Shamrock Rovers into the group stages of the Europa League but his career was heading in an uncertain direction.

The switch to Dundalk has given him some of the best days of his football life and the club captain believes there is more to come from the group which humbled BATE Borisov. He was singled out for special praise by Ireland manager Martin O'Neill on a dressing-room visit where he described his performance as "inspirational".

But the 30-year-old feels that the younger members of the dressing room showed on Tuesday night that they are capable of operating at an elite level.

"The last few times he (O'Neill) was at our games we probably didn't play to our potential so it's good to show what he can do," said O'Donnell. "We've got some real good players there that could play at any level.

"They couldn't handle Horgs (Daryl Horgan) at left wing every time he got on the ball and he's up against some good internationals there. Patrick McEleney when he came on was different class. These lads have ability that can match anyone."

Defeat to BATE Borisov 12 months ago niggled away at O'Donnell during his winter break and the group returned to pre-season training with hitting European standards of fitness at the top of the agenda.

"We were still on our journey last year but when we turned up in pre-season it was the most complete team we've ever had," he continued.

"Last week we were a bit leggy (after quick turnaround from previous round in Iceland) but we knew if we could up our intensity we could ruffle them and we were going strong for the whole 90. There was nobody with cramp or struggling or anything like that. We were a professional outfit.

"I'm delighted for the league, delighted for everyone and hopefully Cork win (tonight v Genk) so you can get a bit of respect because any job you work in, you want that respect for what you do. I think there's more to come when we get more at home with the surroundings

"It opens up so many doors for the club money-wise and, for us as players, it's the stuff dreams are made of from where we started four years ago.

"That story has been told so many times, and we keep creating chapters so hopefully it's not over. This is what we slog for. We're guaranteed big arenas now and the draw on Friday is going to be exciting."

Irish Independent

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