Dundalk deserve high praise for record run
The end is nigh. The end of the year that is, which means various annual awards will be handed out. Is it too much to hope that Dundalk will receive some recognition for putting together one of the most remarkable seasons in League of Ireland history?
Stephen Kenny's (below) men didn't just win the league, they smashed a goalscoring record which has stood for 92 years in doing so - their 78 strikes surpassing the 77 by Shamrock Rovers from the 1922-23 season. Both their margin of victory and points total have only been surpassed once in the last 30 years, by Bohemians in 2008. And their dominance in the FAI Cup was similarly total - in the five games it took them to win the trophy, Dundalk scored 16 goals and conceded just one. Between League and Cup they played 38 games and lost just one.
This is an extraordinary achievement by any standard and deserves to be recognised when RTE's Team of the Year award is handed out. The 'they only won the League of Ireland' argument doesn't hold water when you consider that the last three winners of the award - Donegal footballers, Clare hurlers and the Cork women's football team - were also only up against Irish opposition. Dundalk answered every question they were asked with some style. They deserve to be rewarded.
After such a season, it's inevitable to wonder where Dundalk can go from here. A hat-trick of titles is not to be sneezed at and hasn't been achieved since Shamrock Rovers completed the four-in-a-row in 1987. But Europe is a far more intriguing prospect. This year the champions went within an ace of knocking out perennial Belarussian kingpins BATE Borisov, a last-minute goal in the away leg eventually giving the favourites a 2-1 aggregate victory.
Borisov subsequently confirmed the notion that the Lilywhites had been unlucky to meet them first time out when defeating Videoton of Hungary and Partizan Belgrade to make the group stages of the Champions League. They haven't been disgracing themselves there either, scoring a thrilling 3-2 win over AS Roma and giving Barcelona bags of it before going down 2-0 at home and 3-0 away. Yet there was very little to choose between them and Dundalk at the Borisov Arena and Oriel Park.
There are plenty of new frontiers to conquer for Stephen Kenny and his men but, for the moment, they can bask in the glory of as good a League of Ireland campaign as has ever been completed. Attention must be paid to such a team.
Sunday Indo Sport