Dundalk head coach Stephen O’Donnell far from despondent after Leinster Senior Cup defeat by Shelbourne
Dundalk 0 Shelbourne 4
Stephen O’Donnell was far from despondent despite suffering his heaviest defeat as Dundalk boss as his side made their exit from the Leinster Senior Cup for the second time this season – this time for good – after a 4-0 defeat against Shelbourne at Oriel Park on Friday night.
There were doubts whether this game would ever happen after the Lilywhites were initially dumped from the competition only to be re-instated on appeal. However, any hopes of setting up a quarter-final tie with Wexford were all but ended after six minutes when Hayden Muller was sent-off after being adjudged to have fouled Matty Smith as he looked to break through on goal.
Despite some good play from 10 man Dundalk after that, individual errors were punished by Damien Duff’s side as goals from Jack Moylan, Kyle Robinson, Evan Caffrey and Gbemi Arubi saw them run out comfortable winners.
Speaking afterwards, O’Donnell said he made the call to prioritise minutes for first-team players rather than reshaping things after Muller’s early dismissal.
“Obviously we lost the game 4-0 but we had a man sent-off after six minutes,” he said.
“We had two options then but we decided we’re not going to bring a first-team player off who needs minutes to go and put on another defender to go 4-4-1 so we stayed aggressive with the personnel we had on the pitch.
“Tonight, in my mind, was mainly about getting minutes into players who needed it and from an enthusiasm and quality point of view, I thought we were really good.
“It was a little bit of an unrealistic formation that we kept but I wanted the players to play in their natural positions despite going down to 10 men and I thought there were some excellent individual performances. Again, the two goals that we coughed up in the second half were obviously individual mistakes rather than Shelbourne playing up through us but from what I was looking for – enthusiasm, effort, application and quality – I was very happy with it.
“If there were three points on the line we’d have used a different system and went obviously more conservative but, again, I’ll repeat I wasn’t prepared to take a first-team player off and put a young defender on to go 4-4-1 when there are first-team players needing minutes.
"I didn’t then want one of them playing full-back. I wanted them playing as close as I could to his position. From that point of view, we were a little bit gung-ho and aggressive in our way of playing but I thought they adapted really well and their appetite for the game I was really happy with.”
Most pleasing for O’Donnell was seeing Robbie McCourt and Robbie Benson get an hour and 75 minutes respectively into their legs.
“That’s Robbie McCourt’s first proper game in seven or eight months. He has just been really unfortunate with different things. In the Derry game (at the end of last season) he only lasted 15 minutes.
“The plan was always to give him an hour and to give Robbie Benson 75 and I’m delighted with both of them. That will bring them on. Obviously the work load increased after six minutes but it’s a good thing for them in the bigger picture, especially Robbie McCourt because at least Robbie Benson has been getting fleeting minutes here and there.
"Robbie McCourt, basically, that’s his first proper stuff since last summer, and I thought Robbie Benson was very good for someone who has been out for so long but it’s great to see him back moving the way he know he can move. There were some really good sharp moments from him.
“I thought Alfie Lewis was exceptional. I thought Ryan O’Kane and John Martin were very sharp and Cammy Elliott was very good in the second half. I’m very happy with a lot of the performances and it’s huge for them to basically get a full game under their belt from a fitness point of view. Obviously not from a result point of view but from a fitness point of view it’s good because they were basically playing with 10 men for the whole match.”
Within two minutes of Muller’s dismissal, Shels hit the front on eight minutes when a mistake by McCourt was punished as Robinson picked out Moylan, who managed to wiggle away from Archie Davies at the edge of the box to shoot low and hard past Peter Cherrie.
While Dundalk had a number of half chances after that, it was the visitors who doubled their advantage on 35 minutes with David Toure setting Moylan away on the right with his ball across the face of goal leaving Robinson with the simplest of tap-ins.
The tie was then put to bed on 69 minutes when a lapse at the back was punished by Evan Caffrey, who was allowed saunter in to the box all too easily on the right before seeing his effort squirm past Cherrie.
Shels then completed the rout on 81 minutes with substitute Arubi catching Cherrie in possession inside his box to tap in to an empty net.
Dundalk: Cherrie; Davies, Williams, Muller, McCourt (Bannon 62); Lewis, Benson (Moyo 74); Martin (Honney 86), Ward, O’Kane (O’Gorman 86); Elliott (Kenny 74).
Shelbourne: Van der Sluis; Toure, Quinn, Griffin (Temple 74), Ledwidge; Farrell (Cummins 83), McManus, Caffrey (Arubi 74); Smith (T Wilson 60), Robinson, Moylan (Molloy 60).
Referee: Rob Harvey (Dublin).