Stephen O’Donnell had no complaints after seeing Dundalk’s UEFA Europa Conference League campaign come to an end against Icelandic side KA Akureyri at Oriel Park on Thursday night.
Trailing 3-1 from the first leg in Iceland, the Lilywhites were left with a mammoth task when Joan Edmundsson took advantage of some sloppy defending to score with KA’s first attack of note in the 14th minute.
John Martin’s stunning header from a Ryan O’Kane cross pulled Dundalk level on the night and the forward saw another effort come back off the underside of the KA crossbar in the second half at a stage when Dundalk were in control territorially.
That would have set up a grandstand finish but KA killed the tie when Hallgrímur Mar Steingrímsson sent Nathan Shepperd the wrong way from the penalty spot with eight minutes to play.
Substitute Greg Sloggett salvaged a draw with a last-minute header but it wasn’t enough for Dundalk, who kissed goodbye to a third qualifying round showdown with Belgian giants Club Brugge next week.
“We feel like it’s an opportunity that we let get away from us,” said O’Donnell afterwards. “Going up against Bruges next week might have been too big of an ask for us at this stage but, without a shadow of a doubt, we feel we could have progressed in this round.
“On the other hand, you can’t give up five goals over a two-legged affair and hope to progress, even with us having the majority of the two legs. We’ve probably conceded too many goals all season and we need to eradicate that.
“From a performance point of view, I was quite happy. Even when we went 2-1 down and the game was probably over, we persevered and got an equaliser and over the two legs we were the better team for large parts but, as I said, you can’t give up five goals.
“Our goal now is to obviously be back here next year and be an improvement of what we are now. We need to really attack the back end of the domestic season now.”
DUNDALK FC: Nathan Shepperd, Archie Davies, Andy Boyle (Darren Brownlie 84), Louie Annesley, Darragh Leahy (Johannes Yli-Kokko 71), Daniel Kelly (Cameron Elliott 84), Paul Doyle, Connor Malley (Greg Sloggett 84), Ryan O’Kane, Patrick Hoban, John Martin.
KA AKUREYRI: Kristijan Jajalo, Hrannar Björn Steingrímsson (Alex Freyr Elísson 90), Dusan Brkovic, Ívar Örn Árnason, Birgir Baldvinsson; Daníel Hafsteinsson (Andri Fannar Stefánsson 90), Rodri, Sveinn Margeir Hauksson, Jóan Edmundsson (Jakob Snaer Árnason 60), Ásgeir Sigurgeirsson (Paetur Petersen 84), Hallgrímur Mar Steingrímsson.
REFEREE: Walter Altmann (Austria).