Thursday 22 February 2018

Kenny desperate to keep hold of Cup final hero McMillan as suitors hover

Shamrock Rovers 0 Dundalk 3

Shane Grimes of Dundalk in action against Aaron Bolger of Shamrock Rovers. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Shane Grimes of Dundalk in action against Aaron Bolger of Shamrock Rovers. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Success for Stephen Kenny at Dundalk has resulted in him losing a few of his key strikers and holding on to David McMillan will be the immediate objective as he plans for next year.

The 28-year-old's 20th goal of the season after only five minutes laid the groundwork for Dundalk's convincing win over Shamrock Rovers in Saturday's EA Sports Cup final at Tallaght Stadium, where a flock of scouts from the Championship were in attendance.

Ronan Finn of Shamrock Rovers in action against Robbie Benson of Dundalk. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ronan Finn of Shamrock Rovers in action against Robbie Benson of Dundalk. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Another of Kenny's crucial frontmen, Ciarán Kilduff, opted for a different route by venturing stateside to the second tier of the American soccer ranks with Jacksonville Armada.

For McMillan, interest arrived last summer from Rosenborg after he impressed against the Norwegian champions in Dundalk's European odyssey.

His career outside of football as an architect means he won't be in a rush to emigrate, but with his contract due to expire in early November he could have a busy festive period assessing his options.

"I haven't signed back for next season yet, but I'll be talking to Stephen," explained the Templeogue native.

Patrick McEleney of Dundalk shoots to score his side's second goal past Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper Tomer Chencinski. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Patrick McEleney of Dundalk shoots to score his side's second goal past Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper Tomer Chencinski. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

"I'm sure we'll sit down over the next few weeks and work it out."

Retaining the striker, who scored for the sixth game in a row on Saturday, will be a priority for Kenny.

The Dundalk manager has been linked with a number of potential off-season targets, including Aaron Greene of Bray Wanderers, but the firepower and nous of McMillan will be crucial if Dundalk are to set about regaining their title from Cork City.

Since he recruited the Dubliner from Sligo Rovers for the title-winning campaign in 2014, Kenny has noticed improvements in the striker's play.

David McMillan of Dundalk heads his side's first goal. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
David McMillan of Dundalk heads his side's first goal. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

"David didn't score headers like today's one two years ago," noted Kenny about McMillan's pinpoint opener.

"The amount of headed goals he's scored is a credit to him because he's practiced and practiced that area of his game.

"He was always sharp over the top getting in for one-on-one finishes or striking the ball from the edge of the box. But attacking crosses has been a big improvement in his game."

McMillan is on track to exceed last year's goal tally and also move ahead of Sean Maguire in the league standings.

The Kilkenny native bagged an astonishing total of 20 Premier Division goals for champions-elect Cork City before his departure to Preston North End in July.

Stephen Kenny has plenty to smile about after Saturday’s victory. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Stephen Kenny has plenty to smile about after Saturday’s victory. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

"I scored 21 last season and it would be nice to beat that," admitted McMillan.

"Being on 20 goals with six league games left and the FAI Cup semi-final, I should beat it, but can't be guaranteed."

Dundalk never looked back once they edged ahead in the early stages. Rovers were unable to work Gabriel Sava in the Lilywhites goal and Aaron Bolger's dismissal on 65 minutes handed Dundalk added impetus.

The teenager was more clumsy that malicious with the tackles that incurred his two bookings, but an eight red card of the season, the highest for any team in the league, is a concern for Rovers.

Dundalk did what all strong teams do by utilising the numerical advantage.

Nine minutes from the end, with 10-man Rovers stretched at the back, Patrick McEleney ghosted into the box to receive Jamie McGrath's pass from the right and stroked his shot high into the top corner off the post.

The Hoops were exposed again in stoppage time, as substitute Thomas Stewart roamed clear into the box to slot the ball beyond Tomer Chencinski.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Chencinski; Madden, Webster, Lopes, Clarke; McAllister (Doona 85), Finn; Connolly (King 56), Bolger, Miele; O'Connor (Shaw 69).

DUNDALK: Sava; Gannon, Hoare, Vemmelund, Grimes; Shields, Benson; Duffy, McEleney (O'Donnell 90), McGrath (Kinsella 88); McMillan (Stewart 90).

REF - D Tomney (Dublin).

 

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