The Airtricity League title may have been secured by beating Bohemians, but the season is far from over for Stephen Kenny and his magnificent squad of players. It is a season that will be remembered for games that seemed to come along in threes for Dundalk. After the victory against Bohemians, another three games were on the horizon for the new Champions, Saint Patrick’s Athletic, Galway United and then Zenith awaited the new title holders. With the league title already in the bag, the big game of this trilogy was the long away trip to face Zenith. After losing to Zenith in the home tie, Stephen Kenny and his squad knew they would be in for a tough game in Russia.
Before heading to Russia, Dundalk had to play their last two Airtricity League games of the season. A trip away to Saint Patrick’s Athletic a couple of nights after beating Bohemians turned out to be a very interesting game. It was one of those games that the bookmakers took a real hiding on, and whoever set the odds at 4/1 for Saint Patrick’s, should have had his bumps felt. The dogs on the street knew that Dundalk would rest a lot of players, and of course they did to give the legs a time to rest. Bookmakers do not make many mistakes like this and when Saint Pat,s went ahead you felt there was more to come and they easily ran out five two winners. This was probably Dundalk’s worse performance of the season but with all the changes in personnel it was always going to be the outcome, manager Stephen Kenny actually made nine changes from the previous game. I am sure having beaten Bohemians, Stephen let his players off the lead and do a little bit of celebrating. It was after all the hard work that won them the league, so giving them a bit of freedom could only help in recharging their batteries.
Last up for the Champions in their league campaign was a home game against Galway United. Having lost to Saint Patrick,s, the league winners were ready to put on a good show in front of their adoring fans and finish off the campaign with a win. It was a party atmosphere around Oriel Park on the night and the home side were in no mood to let Galway ruin the night. It was one way traffic from the start and there was no way Dundalk were going to lose this one. Two goals from Dean Shiels and one each for Barrett and Kilduff saw the Champions run out four one winners. The home side even had the luxury of seeing a Robbie Benson goal ruled out for offside. This victory was Dundalk,s 25th of the season and consistency like that wins titles.
Dundalk travelled to Saint Petersburgh with the hope of getting something from the game against Zenith. It was always going to be a tough game for the Lillywhites, as, after all Zenith had come to Dublin in the previous game and taken all three points. But on the night Stephen Kenny,s men nearly pulled off the shock of shocks in the Petrovsky Stadium. They were giving a good account of themselves throughout the first half until the 42nd minute, when centre half Brian Gartland was caught in pocession and it allowed Giuliano in to score. It must have been a magnificent team talk for Kenny at half time, as in the second half they took the game to the home side. It was a surprise turnaround and when Daryl Horgan equalised you could feel the sense of uncertainty in the home crowd. Dundalk dug in and were nearly coming away with a point when Giuliano grabbed a second goal with ten minutes left. It was a huge disappointment for Dundalk not to get something out of the game and this just shows how far this club has come in such a short space of time.
They can still qualify for the knockout stages of this competition and next up is AZ Alkmaar, a game that Stephen Kenny and his men must win. Closer on the horizon, is an FAI Cup Final against Cork City, a game that if they win would result in them winning a double double, all we can do now is wait and see.