Most Dundalk fans coming into this were hoping for more football success on the field after last season’s cup and league double. What has unfolded in front of our eyes has been staggering and to the average Airtricity League of Ireland fan, it has been sensational.Not only have the men from Louth established a lead on the top of the Airtricity Premier League but they have also been battling in two other competitions. They have progressed into the FAI Cup Final were they will meet their closest rivals Cork City on November 6th and they are also causing quite a stir in the Europa League. Stephen Kenny has put a squad together that believe in themselves and with the support from the fans off the pitch they are all living the football dream. I have watched Stephen’s side play quite a few games this season and in my opinion they have brought football onto a higher level in this country. Their ability to find a man with the ball every time has been a breath of fresh air, for to many years a lot of football played in this league has been hoof ball as I call it. The type of tactic used by a lot of the clubs was knock it long and hope for the best, not a great advertisement for the league. Dundalk this season have changed a lot of people’s opinion about the league and this can only be for the better as we go on.
Over the past week, the men from Dundalk have played three of the most important games in the club’s history. It started off with an historic win in the Europa League against Macabbi Tel Aviv in a game played in Dublin. Dundalk won by a goal to nil and in doing so created history as no other club has ever won a game at this level, they won by a goal but if they had taken their chances it could have been three or four. On the night they played the Israeli’s off the park and in my opinion were different class. That result has put the Lillywhites in with a great chance of getting out of the group stages of the Europa League as earlier in the month they picked up a point away to Dutch side AZ Alkmaar, with only ten men on the pitch after Stephen O Donnell had been sent off. Following their victory over Tel Aviv, the league leaders had an FAI Cup Semi Final against Derry City which ended two all. It was game were Dundalk went two up but were clawed back to a two all draw. Manager Stephen Kenny had made changes in his team for the game to try and give a few of his regulars a rest. The last thing Stephen and his squad needed was another game to add to their already big back log of games but the draw on Sunday meant they were off to The Brandywell for a replay on Tuesday night. In the replay goals from Curtis and Kikduff sealed victory in a two one win and put Stephen Kenny’s men into another Cup Final. Is there no end to the talent of this Dundalk squad.
When you become successful it can bring its problems as well. Dundalk’s fixture list at the moment is like trying to navigate through a motorway pile up, they are having to play back matches at the moment and ideally it would have been a lot better for everyone if the powers to be had extended the league season by a week or so to give the Lillywhites a bit of breathing space between games. On paper this would have been a simple request but sometimes things are not that simple, if the league was to be extended it would cause financial pain to other clubs who would have finished their programme of games. The main reason behind this is that in this league the players are contracted from the start to the finish of the season. If the FAI, who it has to be said have been superb in helping Dundalk to try and navigate through their fixture hell by rearranging games for them, had decided to extend the season it would cost other clubs a lot of money as there would have been no revenue coming in. It is going to be very interesting over the coming days as we go into the final games to see if all the football Dundalk are playing catches up with them from a fitness and injury point of view. Cork City who sit second in the league are having more rest time between games and this could be very significant advantage in the title race. No matter what the outcome of this season is, it has been tremendous and let us all enjoy the run in. Going into this weeks round of fixtures it is incredibly tight at the top, both Dundalk and Cork have played 26 games and there is a four point gap, this is going all the way down to the wire and in my opinion there will be more twists and turns as we go.