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'On another night we could have won by four or five. The game should have been over by half-time'

Dundalk had a frustrating start to their title defence on Friday.

Dundalk first-team coach John Gill.
Dundalk first-team coach John Gill.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

JOHN GILL SAYS the injuries to Robbie Benson and Patrick McEleney were the most concerning aspect of a frustrating start to Dundalk’s title defence.

The SSE Airtricity League Premier Division champions were held to a 1-1 draw by Sligo Rovers in their opening game of the 2019 campaign.

A failure to collect all three points was compounded by setbacks for midfielders Benson and McEleney at Oriel Park on Friday.

A Jack Keaney free-kick gave Sligo a 43rd-minute lead against the run of play, but former Watford midfielder Sean Murray equalised early in the second half of his league debut for Dundalk. 

“We’re very happy with the way that we played,” said Gill, Dundalk’s first-team coach, who has returned to the club as part of a management team spearheaded by head coach Vinny Perth.

“We created seven or eight chances in the first half. On another night we could have won by four or five. The game should have been over by half-time.

“We’re disappointed that we didn’t win the game but not disappointed with the performance. We’ll dust ourselves down. The most disappointing thing is the two injuries. They looked like two nasty injuries.”

Robbie Benson is fouled by Sligo Rovers goalkeeper Edward McGinty Robbie Benson is fouled by Ed McGinty. Source: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

Benson and McEleney are both facing spells on the sidelines. McEleney picked up a foot injury, while there are fears that Benson fractured his fibula when he was taken down early in the game by Sligo goalkeeper Ed McGinty, who saved Patrick Hoban’s subsequent penalty.

In an injury update issued by Dundalk this afternoon, boss Vinny Perth — who was frustrated by the officiating — stated that the outlook appears brighter than initially seemed to be the case for both players. However, no timeline was specified for their respective absences. 

“Robbie Benson and Patrick McEleney continue to be evaluated this morning, but neither are as bad as first feared,” said Perth. “It’s disappointing for both lads, considering the form they were in, and how hard they worked in pre-season. Both were playing really well against Sligo Rovers before coming off.

“We feel confident that we have put together a really strong squad this season and I think we can deal with both injuries. With the strength and depth we have in this squad, I think it’s the strongest squad we’ve had.

“Certain quarters say that we know how to manage referees but I feel we were deserving of a lot more protection on Friday. We are not a club of excuses, we have a strong squad and we look forward to the challenges ahead.”

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