Kenny: Couldn’t Be Prouder
Stephen Kenny’s quest to win a domestic cup double moved one significant step closer to fruition with Tuesday’s derby semi-final replay success, and afterwards he spoke of the pride his team showed given his injury circumstances.
The manager surprised many by starting Chris Shields and Thomas Stewart on the bench and with the absence of them and Patrick McEleney, John Mountney, Dane Massey and Steven Kinsella, his team came from behind to go 2-1 in front but Shamrock Rovers drew level with five minutes of normal time remaining.
Both players were introduced late as the game went to extra-time, David McMillan made it 3-2 before Stephen O’Donnell scored with a superb looping header, and it is Dundalk who will return to the AVIVA Stadium for a third successive year for the showpiece final against Cork City.
“It was a real epic battle. We’ve had a few setbacks in this tie to say the least, number one – we conceded a late equaliser in Oriel Park when we looked like we were going to win the game, the second one was that we conceded an early goal tonight having started really well in this game, and then we conceded a goal right at the death to bring it to extra-time when the momentum was with Shamrock Rovers,” Kenny said at Tallaght Stadium.
“I think the players have shown immense character to win the game and I couldn’t be any prouder of them.
“We have so many injuries at the minute, we’ve had a real bad run of it. Thomas Stewart and Chris Shields shouldn’t have even been playing really, they put themselves on the line by coming off the bench and playing their part when we got injuries to Dylan Connolly.
“We had such a patched-up squad today, the whole squad done terrifically well and I can’t compliment them high enough.”
David McMillan scored to level the game before netting the goal to give us the lead in extra-time, and Kenny praised his strikers’ efforts as he played the entire 120 minutes of the replay.
“David was tired after 70 odd minutes but he played for 120 minutes, he’s at the peak of his powers at the minute, this is the best form of his career overall – he’s been terrific and another two goals tonight has helped us get to the final.”
The 45-year-old highlighted the importance of Stephen O’Donnell as a key player and praised the captain for his performance and goal.
“Stephen O’Donnell was very good tonight. I thought in extra-time that his legs were gone but he found a new lease of life.
“He has had such a frustrating season with injuries from his own point of view. He has had to contend with the mental torture of people saying and wondering if he can make an impact anymore and he has shown that he most certainly can – there’s no doubt about that, he was excellent in the two games against Shamrock Rovers.”
The Lilywhites will now play at the AVIVA Stadium on Sunday, 5th November against Cork City in the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup final for a third year in-a-row.
“It’s an epic final. It’s a very proud feeling to go to the AVIVA Stadium as manager of Dundalk Football Club and I think the town itself will be electric in the lead up to what will be another epic game with Cork,” concluded the Dubliner.