Frustration was etched all over the face of Darragh Leahy as he stopped to give his reaction to Dundalk’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of Vitesse Arnhem in Tallaght on Thursday night.
The Dutch side will meet Anderlecht in the UEFA Europa Conference League playoff round next week after managing to withstand a late Lilywhites surge that was sparked by Patrick Hoban’s 71st-minute penalty.
Vinny Perth’s men earned lots of plaudits for their display against the Eredivisie side across both legs but Leahy said that meant nothing to the players.
“I’m not into those moral victories,” he said. “We’re out and that’s it. It’s very disappointing. I thought Vitesse died a bit in the second half, to be honest, and we were on top.
“It’s just frustrating because we gave away two sloppy goals tonight and the second goal in the first leg was preventable as well. It really slipped away from us.”
The night almost got off to a dream start when Michael Duffy drilled a low effort under Markus Schubert but the goal was ruled out for offside. Replays, however, clearly showed that the Lilywhites winger was anything but.
“I’ll say it again, it’s very frustrating,” said Leahy. “Those big decisions never really seem to go our way in these games. Mickey was clearly onside, about two or three yards, and if that counts, it’s obviously a whole different game.”
Goals from Matus Bero and Yann Gboho gave Vitesse some breathing space at the interval but, spurred on by the 1,500 fans in attendance, the Lilywhites threw everything at their opponents in the second half only for Schubert to produce a number of fine saves to crush Dundalk’s hopes.
“When we went in a half time we knew there was more in us,” said Leahy. “Vinny just said we had nothing to lose and to go out and give everything. We knew that chances would come and in the last 20 minutes, I don’t think we could have done much more.
“Their goalkeeper made an excellent save from Mickey, Davy had an opportunity and we had two or three other chances. We definitely put it up to them and if it had gone to extra time I think our fitness levels would have taken us through. It’s just very disappointing.”
Leahy and his teammates won’t have too long to dwell on the defeat. A trip to the Ryan McBride Brandywell on Sunday to meet Derry City in a hugely important SSE Airtricity League clash is Dundalk’s next port of call and the Lilywhites full-back knows the importance of picking up some much-needed points.
“We have to get back into Europe next year,” he said. “We said that after the game. Our focus has to be on Derry on Sunday and trying to qualify again next season. We just have to get together now and keep dogging away and try and get a bit of form going in the league.”