'Everyone is gutted in there. I'm lost for words'

Sean Hoare, Pat Hoban and Daniel Kelly give their reactions to Dundalk’s treble bid falling just short.

Dundalk's Daniel Kelly dejected after the game.
Dundalk's Daniel Kelly dejected after the game.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IT WAS A quiet, sombre Dundalk dressing room on Sunday evening at the Aviva Stadium.

Vinny Perth’s men were looking to become the first Irish side since Derry’s 1989 team to complete a domestic treble.

They had already benefitted from a penalty shootout this season. In September, they overcame the Candystripes 6-5 on spot kicks to clinch the EA Sports Cup.

Yesterday though, they were not so fortunate.

Without key players Chris Shields and Patrick McEleney, Dundalk struggled to impose themselves on the game, with Rovers the superior side for much of the contest, despite needing penalties to prevail after a 1-1 draw.

That said, the Lilywhites could still so easily have got their hands on the cup. One moment that stands out was in the dying moments of extra-time, when Alan Mannus just about managed to tip Georgie Kelly’s close-range effort wide.

“We weren’t ourselves tonight, we weren’t great,” Daniel Kelly says. “It’s a lottery when it goes to penos. We dug in, we got a bit of luck at the end [with Michael Duffy's last-gasp equaliser]. Personally, I thought it was over.

“It’s tough to take. Everyone is gutted in there. I’m lost for words. When you go in, and it’s 1-1 [after normal time], you’re saying to yourself… Maybe it’s written in the stars for us.”

And Kelly agrees the unavailability of Shields and McEleney was a factor in his side’s disappointing display.

“Chris is huge for us. I know he’s a number six, but he ends up on the right wing, out on the left wing, he’s winning balls back.

I don’t know what to say, to be honest. When he’s on his game, there’s nobody better than him and to compare to him and obviously Fats [McEleney], he was coming back this week and training. He looked like he was back and the hamstring, it was just too much for him. He’s huge for us.

“Even last year, he was saying to me, he’s my roommate and he didn’t even have the best game, he scored the header, got man of the match and the headlines. You need a bit of luck and unfortunately, we didn’t get it.

“Everyone’s legs were gone in the last few minutes. There’s highs and lows. We’ve had a lot of highs this year but with the highs, you get the lows, and unfortunately, tonight is going to be a low.”

“Look, it’s the flip of a coin at the end of the day and we came out the wrong side of it,” adds Sean Hoare, who deputised in the holding midfielder role in Shields’ absence.

“It was not ideal that two mainstays of our team this year and previous years were missing. To lose players like that would affect any team.

“And especially in the manner that we lost Shields, we didn’t know until this week and it threw a spanner in the works a bit. But we adapted and kept it at a draw for almost all of the 120 minutes.

“But to lose on penalties is horrible.”

Asked about his own performance away from his preferred position of centre-back, Hoare says: “I haven’t played there in a while, but it’s familiar enough, having played there when Shieldsie was injured.

I have no complaints, I gave it a go and was happy to fill in. Obviously they are big shoes to fill [in the absence of] Shieldsie, but I did my best.”

There were similar sentiments from Pat Hoban, who cut an isolated figure up front for the majority of the game.

“It’s extremely disappointing. We were mismatched with missing the two boys in midfield.

“But I felt that we did well at times, although we did not start well. It was one of those games that when it went 1-1, you could see that it was always going to go to penalties.

“It’s just the luck of the draw when it goes to penalties and that’s just the way it ended on the day.”

Dundalk started to take the game to Rovers more in extra-time, particularly in the first period, but it was too little too late ultimately.

We did that, but Rovers like to do a lot of small passing in midfield,” Hoban continues. “It looks pretty, but they don’t actually go anywhere.

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“We kind of knew that from the off, but hats off to them, as they did really well to win the cup.

“The team that wins it at the end of the day deserves to do so.”

Unlike in previous years, however, it is not the end of Dundalk’s season just yet. They have two remaining games against Linfield, on 8 and 11 November, in the Unite the Union Champions Cup.

“Yes, and that’s good,” says Hoare. “Now, we have to get back down to business on Tuesday and give that cup a right go.

“And maybe this competition can become a really big cup, so to be part of this first one is great.

“It’s going to be 100% and the management have been doing their homework on them for a few weeks.

“They know what we can expect, so it’s going to be no walk in the park, certainly up there. We are really looking forward to it.

“If we could win three trophies by the end of this year, it would be unbelievable.”

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Paul Fennessy

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