Saturday 22 September 2018

Kenny praises players as O'Donnell rues Dundalk's lack of composure

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

How will Stephen Kenny pick himself up from this?

"I think I'm big and ugly enough to do that," said the Dundalk manager after leaving a dejected dressing room.

The answer to the next question suggested it might still take time. The premise was that his team would have to dust themselves down and get ready to go again for next year.

"Well it's not as easy as that," Kenny (left) replied. "You can't just shrug your shoulders and go again. You put so much into it, you work so hard, but, you know, it's a penalty shoot-out and very fine margins. It's a harsh way to lose, a very harsh way to lose, we have to accept that."

He knows that an EA Sports Cup victory will not be enough to put a positive slant on a season of transition following the year of their lives. Yet the outcome of the FAI Cup final was always going to determine how the year would be remembered.

"If we win that shoot-out, people are saying it's an incredible season," he sighed.

"I can't fault the players; they gave everything for 120 minutes."

His captain, Stephen O'Donnell, was more frustrated than crestfallen when he emerged to offer his take.

The Galwegian was troubled by how Dundalk responded to going ahead at the beginning of extra-time. After working so hard to get into that position, he believes that the Lilywhites gave it away all too easily.

"Not being able to see it out is very disappointing," he said.

"Once you go up in a tight game like this you have to see it out, there's no other way about it.

"We knew that they threw bodies on and would go direct, but as a team we have to see it out. We have to be better on the ball too. When we were getting the ball, even though we were 1-0 up, we were just kicking it back to them, it's as simple as that.

"You've got to be able to kill the game, maybe get another one, but we kept on giving it back to them."

The 31-year-old also felt there was something lacking from his side's performance in normal time, much as they enjoyed tons of possession.

Cork's players had argued that their opponents hadn't cut them open despite being in the ascendency and O'Donnell didn't exactly dispute the viewpoint.

"As a team we have to create more when we are dominating," he said. "That goes for all of us. We didn't and when you only score one goal it's still in the melting pot.

"We didn't create enough chances for the amount of possession that we had - that's the whole team now, not just the attacking players. Myself included, everyone."

The Dundalk goalscorer, Niclas Vemmelund, was finding the defeat a bit harder to swallow.

"I don't think they deserved to win the game, to be honest," said the Dane, who is due to return home this week.

"It's just probably not our season. It's definitely heartbreaking when it's your last game. What can I say? All the players are quite down at the moment. I think we were unlucky."

Goalkeeper Gary Rogers certainly was, given that he made fine saves at crucial moments.

"You'd rather play rubbish and win, but it is what it is," he said.

"We have to go lick our wounds and come back next season and try to regain a couple of those trophies."

The problem for Kenny is that five of his starting team are out of contract and could depart.

Vemmelund has confirmed his exit, while St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright was present to watch David McMillan and Robbie Benson. McMillan has already been over to Scotland to inspect the facilities.

Patrick McEleney says he is 50-50 on the going or staying front, while Sean Gannon has received interest from Shamrock Rovers.

"We'll have to wait and see," said Kenny. "I can't just give a blanket deadline (to players). We're trying to work with everyone."

Emotions will have to be gathered before they press on with their next move. After last year's Cup blow, they still had European commitments.

This morning, Dundalk kick off a winter of regret.

Irish Independent

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