Sunday 18 February 2018

Second-half display wins over former Lilywhite Alan

AN ELEGANT midfield operator in his playing days Alan Cawley now works as pundit for Ocean FM covering Sligo's games. He also works with RTE's soccer show MNS, so he's witnessed enough Airtricity League football this season to assert that Dundalk have what it takes to win the title.

If he needed any further convincing the former Lilywhites was won over by their performance on Friday night, when they came out after half-time 'like a hurricane' to take control of the game and tie up victory.

He admitted earlier in the season he was dubious that the Lilywhites could keep a challenge going over course the season, but insists they are now in with a 'big shout.'

After watching them in the flesh for the first time in a while at Oriel Park, he told how impressed he was with the transformation at the club and was bowled over by the electric atmosphere and saluted the remarkable job that Stephen Kenny has performed.

Cawley played under Ian Foster for an injury ruined season that resulted in him forsaking his football career for a 'proper' job in the media.

He now feels the foundations were laid for a return to the top echelons of soccer in the country in 2009 and 2010 when he played at Oriel Park. 'We had a spell where we were winning the league for a long time and just couldn't sustain it. We had a good run in Europe but things then tailed off the last couple of years and obviously the predicament the club was in last year when they avoided relegation after a play-off with Waterford wasn't ideal.

'But Stephen Kenny has come in and there has been a marked improvement and a marked difference and it's unbelievable. This has been my first time up here in a wee while to watch a game. Obviously I'm following the games from afar, but it is the first time I have been up in a while and the atmosphere is unbelievable.

'It's great to see the people getting behind the club again. Because it is one thing I always found about Dundalk, it was a mad soccer town, something similar to my own town Sligo. It was a crazy soccer town and you can see it here tonight 3000, a great atmosphere.

'The team is playing ever so well giving them plenty to shout about and certainly there was a lot of people, including myself to be fair, writing Dundalk off earlier in the season, questioning whether they could sustain it. Well nobody can write them off now. They are definitely there and going to be thereabouts until the end of the season. Looking and judging by tonight's performance, particularly in the second half they are in with a great shout.'

He said Sligo were the better team in the first half when he felt Dundalk looked a bit nervy, and edgy. 'They weren't looking to get it down and play, especially Stephen O'Donnell and Richie Towell. They are fantastic footballers, but they weren't looking to play for whatever reason. Maybe they were a bit nervous. It was a huge game tonight and probably their biggest game so far of the season. Sligo Rovers did dominate and they were the better team but when you have possession of the ball and you have the domination in the game, it's all important that you have to take advantage of that and get chances while on top.

'That's something Sligo Rovers didn't do and in fairness obviously Stephen Kenny maybe had a go at the players and gave it them a bit of a rocket at half-time and they came out in the second half like a hurricane and for that 15 minute spell were well on top and created loads of chances and they took advantage and got the goal. That was the killer goal a great header from Chris Shields. From then on they looked comfortable.

'Sligo huffed and puffed but they never really looked like scoring in the second half and they were full value for the win you would have to say overall.'

'Good luck to Dundalk. Stephen Kenny has done a remarkable job it has to be said and good luck to them between now and the end of the season. Judging on tonight's performance and evidence they are in with a massive shout.'

The Argus

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