Emotional Ciaran Kilduff reveals Stephen Kenny's bold pre-match prediction against AZ Alkmaar
EMOTIONAL Dundalk striker Ciaran Kilduff paid tribute to the club’s medical team after he bounced back from a turbulent year to score a famous equaliser in Holland.
Kilduff’s 89th minute equaliser gave Stephen Kenny’s side a deserved point from their Europa League group stage debut with AZ Alkmaar.
Their achievement was all the more remarkable given that skipper Stephen O’Donnell was sent off with half an hour of football still to be played – that included nine minutes of stoppage time.
That delay was caused by a lengthy hold-up after Stijn Wuytens put AZ ahead and collided with Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers. He was taken to hospital with heavy concussion.
But despite the numerical disadvantage, Dundalk broke at the death to force a free that ended with the excellent Daryl Horgan crossing for Kilduff to convert a goal worth €120,000 in prizemoney.
It had special significance for the substitute after a year where a serious back injury led to fears that it could have damaging long term implications for his health.
He made a miraculous recovery only to suffer a serious knee complaint that ruled him out of the decisive Champions League tie with Legia Warsaw.
“I’m just relieved to play a part,” said Kilduff afterwards. “A lot of people, my family and the manager here, put a lot of faith in me. He put a lot of positive thoughts in my head before tonight. I did my ACL and I was rushed back, I was out for just over three weeks.
“The physio here is one of my best friends, Fearghal Kerin, and Sam Rice, and they got me back early. The manager said to me before we left the dressing room tonight, wouldn’t it just be written if you could get the winner.
“I could only get the equaliser so I owe him one, I suppose.”
Kenny was proud of his players and admitted that the atmosphere in the dressing room afterwards was closer to the feeling after a win.
“To come to Holland play with 10 men with that period and still have that belief to defend that goal the way we did. I thought our players were extremely courageous,” he said.
Dundalk now return to a busy league schedule before they welcome Maccabi Tel-Aviv to Tallaght in a fortnight’s time.
Read more here:
- Dramatic end yields historic result - Kilduff equaliser gives heroic Dundalk deserved point on group stage debut
- AZ Alkmaar boss has high praise for Dundalk and says Kenny's men play better football than British teams
- Revealed: Dundalk have bagged another financial windfall after historic Europa League point