After seeing them at close quarters last weekend, Robbie Benson is backing our MU19 academy side to emulate the first team and see off Bray Wanderers in a big cup tie.

Benson made his return from a hamstring injury by playing 63 minutes for the MU19 team in last Sunday’s 4-1 win over the Seagulls in Greystones.

The sides will meet again in the quarter-finals of the MU19 Enda McGuill Cup in Ballychorus this Sunday and Benson said he was confident that Tiarnan Mulvenna’s young Lilywhites can replicate the first team, who beat Bray Wanderers 1-0 last Friday night in the FAI Cup.

“It’ll be a good game,” he told “The standard was very good and both teams played really well. The game was probably a bit tighter than the scoreline suggests but it sets our lads up nicely for their quarter-final.

“One of the benefits of the academy system is the ability to play overage players and I’m very grateful to Tiarnan and Marc Griffin and all of the lads there for helping me and giving me the chance to get some fitness work in.

“I was conscious that I was probably taking minutes off a player but it was also good to see the level that they’re playing at.

“There were some very good patterns of play and Tiarnan and Griff want them to get the ball down and play like we do in the first team so it bodes well for the future. When they do come up to the first team, they can fit in seamlessly.”

Five of the team that started on Sunday; Sean Molloy, Jack Watters, Senan Mullen, Mayowa Animasahun and Anto Moyo, have all been training with the first team this week and Benson said it was interesting to see them in their ‘natural’ environment.

Dundalk FC MU19 midfielder Oisin Coleman. Top: Callum Bonner and Ryan Boyle celebrate a goal against Derry City. Photo: Gerry Scully

“The thing I noticed when I was with the MU19s was that, personality-wise, they’re a bit more on the front foot than when they’re in training and playing with us in the first team.

“They can be a little bit reserved when they come in, as I would have been when I was their age, so if they can bring their personalities out a bit more, and play like they’re playing with their mates or with the MU19s, it would be a big thing.

“The more they are in with us, lads will naturally start to show a bit more of themselves and feel more relaxed and it’s also up to us in the first team to make them feel comfortable.”

Benson hasn’t featured since injuring his hamstring in the win over UCD on May 1st but with nine league games, and potentially three FAI Cup games still to play, his return comes at a pivotal point of the campaign.

“I was just unfortunate against UCD,” he sighed. “My leg was in a vulnerable position, I got kicked and ended up overstretching it. It didn’t feel too bad but I ended up having to get a little procedure on it.

“I had a couple of stretching incidents in training and on Sunday and came through them all right so it’s feeling good now and I’m hoping that I can get back and help out the lads and the team for the last part of right season.”

Benson is hoping to be involved in Friday’s televised clash with league leaders Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium, a game that is followed by a home fixture against third-placed Derry City at Oriel Park seven days later.

Dundalk currently sit fifth in a congested table, eight points adrift of Rovers and three behind fourth-placed Bohemians, and Benson knows that a positive fortnight could change the narrative around the title race.

“Everyone’s writing it down as the top four teams that can go on and challenge for the league but if we win those two games, we’re going to be right in it,” he said.

“We’ve got the likes of St Patrick’s Athletic and Bohemians still to play as well so why not? Why not us?”