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John Russell and Stephen McDonnell - Dundalk v Saint Patrick's Athletic - 9 March 2012

Donning Black & White: Part Three

Stephen McDonnell has penned the third instalment of his blog ‘Donning Black & White’, which is in association with EA SPORTS™. In it, Stephen looks back at the opening three games of the season, ahead to the visit of UCD, he asks supporters to stick with the team and tells us of his belief that this is “one of the better Dundalk teams” since the club’s return to Premier Division football in 2009.

My last blog was just before the visit of Saint Patrick’s Athletic on 9 March, our first home game of the season.

We were disappointed with our performance. We didn’t turn up on the night. It was an easy three points for St. Pat’s. The only positive was we knew we could play a lot better, and we showed that in the Drogheda match.

It’s just going to take that wee bit of time. People are all jumping on our backs in the last week or two. It’s not nice to see a lot of negativity three games in, with us not getting the points that people expected us to get.

If you look back at the games, we hadn’t won in Monaghan in six years or beaten St. Pat’s at home in over 13 years. We went to Monaghan, got a point and a clean-sheet, and came back and got beaten by a classy St. Pat’s team. They have a lot of quality and are going to be up the top – it’s no disgrace to be beaten 2-0 by them.

The two goals we conceded that night were two individual errors. We’re a young team and we’re only going to gain experience game-by-game. We have had a look at it and they were two errors that cost us. But we’ll learn from that.

In the other two games, while we haven’t scored, we have come away with two clean-sheets, so that shows that we have a tight enough defence.

Hopefully, people will remain positive. The media and a lot of the fans have been negative. They don’t take the positives from games.

We went to Drogheda and Gabriel Sava was probably ‘Man of the Match’. We had so many chances and but for their ‘keeper we could have come away with all three points, and we should have. We were the better team even when they had 11 players.

When they went down to ten men, we should have kept the ball a lot better and draw them out so we could pick off little holes and areas. We didn’t really do that as good as we should have. With them going down to nine men, we should have beaten them, but we didn’t play the game right.

In saying that, again, we’re a young team and we’ll learn to kill off games like that in the future.

Walking down the street, you hear people talking about Dundalk and it’s all negative. I haven’t heard one positive thing, and it’s a shame. When it gets up and running, they will be all coming back through the turnstiles again. A true fan will be there through thick and thin.

I can understand the fans. Some expect us to win the league but that’s just not a realistic aim this season. For now, it’s a slow process and we have to gradually build on it, and we have to get a bit of consistency about the team.

It’s important that the fans get behind us and stick with us.

Looking at my own performances, I was very disappointed with how I played against St. Pat’s. I think I only got five touches of the ball in the whole game! Every time I did get it, I gave it away. But the whole team didn’t turn up on the night. I was very disappointed with myself – I was going off on a mad one in the house.

But I was just thinking positive going into the Drogheda game. It was a slow enough start but in the second half, I thought I had a pretty good game. I can do a job on the left. We all know I prefer central midfield, but I’ll play wherever Seán wants me to and I’ll do a job for him.

McDonnell, who played under Seán McCaffrey at Irish underage level, is confident that things will come together

I see I got a bit of stick on Monday Night Soccer (MNS) from going down too lightly from Eric Foley’s challenge, which led to his second booking. You don’t really get to see the clear view on the camera, the way the angle is, but he actually did catch me on my inside and I was going at such a pace that I just stumbled, stumbled, stumbled, and I eventually hit the floor. I tried to stay up because if I had, I was either going to get a shot or set somebody up. I couldn’t stay up and I hit the floor, and unfortunately for Eric he got a second booking and it was a second man off the pitch for Drogheda.

We all know it is three games now and we haven’t scored. But I think when we get one it will come. I know there was a lack of chances in the opening two games, but I don’t think you could say that was the case last Friday night. There were probably enough chances in that game to win all three games. I don’t worry about it, because with the attacking players we have like Michael Rafter and Shane O’Neill, there shouldn’t be a problem.

Hopefully, we can get an early goal against UCD and take it from there.

Defensively, I don’t think anyone can complain. We are going to be a hard enough team to break down, once we get all these little creases ironed out. We’re sound at the back, with the players we have to bring in too, even the young lads like Ben McLaughlin who had a stormer against Crumlin on Monday. You have Hernany and Eoghan Osborne to come back in too. And Nathan has come on again from last year, confidence-wise as well.

It is just about getting the finishing touches up front, getting the link play and that right, and if we do that then we’ll be alright.

Obviously, I carried the captain’s armband in the first two games. It was a nice feeling. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the results. But at 19, it was nice for me to do that.

Looking back the Leinster Senior Cup game, Ben, Chris Reilly and Garreth Brady got a chance and I think all of them did very well, and I’m sure they’ll be involved more in the next few weeks. There were other good performances too. Again, it was a lack of creativity in the final third that cost us. Crumlin weren’t great, to be fair. We were just missing a cutting edge.

I wouldn’t worry too much about it. It’s one less game to worry about, at the end of the day. If we had gone into the next round, you could pick up a long-term injury maybe, so – even though we would have liked to win – we’ll move on.

The mood in the camp is great. We seem to be the only ones that are remaining positive at the moment. Even the pundits on MNS don’t fancy us. I think they will get a surprise when we get going, as will a lot of teams. Everyone in the camp is buzzing. We can see it getting there ourselves.

I honestly believe that this is one of the better teams that Dundalk have had since they came up. It’s a bit of a statement to say that, but just give it time – that’s all I can say.

Hopefully, we can get a win against UCD and that will give us a boost going into some very tough games. But we won’t fear anybody, especially with such a young team. We’re just going to go there and take it as it comes. If we win, we win, if we lose, we lose and we’ll dust ourselves down and get ready for the next one.

Hopefully, a win will get us on the road, and we can kick on from there, and the mood around the town will change back to one of positivity.

C’mon De Town,

We are taking questions for both Stephen and John Mountney, who are sharing blog duties each week throughout the season.

If you want to ask the lads a question or send them a message, e-mail and they will answer it in their next blog!

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