Dundalk v Sligo | Filippo’s Thoughts
Read Dundalk FC head coach Filippo Giovagnoli’s programme notes ahead of the final SSE Airtricity League game of the season against Sligo Rovers at Oriel Park. A win, or a draw, would be enough to secure the Lilywhites third place and European football in 2021.
For me, Vienna was an understanding that the team can compete with teams like Rapid. In the first group game with Molde, we felt we were competitive and against Arsenal, we did really well in the first part of the game but we still did not have a real understanding of whether we could really compete at a European level. In Vienna, we realised that we can play against those teams, even though they are bigger than us. I was really proud of the players and I think we can be dangerous in the remaining three group games.
I received some criticism after the game for my team selection, in particular the choice of goalkeeper, but football is like that. People that talk after the game are the ‘scientists’ of the game. After a game, it is easy to say what should have been done but it is much more difficult when you are there at the time. You have to make decisions and the decisions we make are related to facts. The facts are what we see every day, like the condition of the players. Playing every three days for a month is not a normal situation. This can happen for two weeks but not for a full month. In my opinion, it’s really weird and frustrating that we have not been able to prepare for games. I understand journalists have a job to do but they are not here and they don’t know what happens each day.
Gary played two consecutive games and I felt it was the time to give some space to Aaron because he has been doing really well. I believe that a goalkeeper like Gary needs to be fresh mentally. It’s not just physically, it’s cognitively also. You can say that you have recovered physically but mentally you can be exposed if you play every game. I decided to give Gary a break. It’s not that difficult to understand. Aaron did some good things. His distribution was very good and he made some excellent saves. Every player makes mistakes and, of course, when the goalie makes a mistake it is even bigger but it’s a learning process for Aaron and I know he will come back even stronger.
Looking at tonight’s game, let’s be fully clear about this. When Dundalk called me, they asked me to focus only on qualification for the Europa League group stages. That was the main objective. We did everything to achieve that, which affected our team selection, rotation and substitutions. For the club, it was the most important objective because of the millions that come with it and if people forget that we achieved this, I think they are crazy. The other objective was to qualify for Europe next year so if we win tonight we have achieved all of the targets that were set. Everything after that will be a bonus and it will release a lot of pressure going into the FAI Cup quarter-final and the remaining Europa League games. To do that, we will have to perform very well tonight. Sligo is a dangerous team, they are very fresh and they have already beaten us 3-1 this season. We want revenge and I want to see the team perform. If we focus the same way that we did on Thursday, we will do really well.
During my time in Ireland, I have learned a lot of things about the league and the structure. I don’t think the schedule works for Irish teams who want to try and win a title and also be competitive in Europe. Unless you pick an objective, like focus on the league, or the cup, or just compete in Europe, you cannot compete at every level unless the schedule changes. I have also learned that there is a different style in Ireland than there is in Europe. Eventually, our style will be the same in both. We have changed many things but we need a full pre-season to consolidate our style of football and get things the way we want. We have also learned about our players. We love them and they are an amazing group. We didn’t build this squad but we have been really happy with the players and the way they have improved individually. We want more time to work with them.
This is our final league game of the season and It has been a real pity that we have not been able to have supporters at our games. We have not been able to feel anything. People have told us the atmosphere at Oriel Park can be unbelievable and I think the crowd would have been a big help to us. I can understand that our supporters are uncertain about some things but I would ask them to be patient and have faith in the club and my promise to all of them is that we are going to fight all of the way for the last month of the season. If we stay focussed, we can make this a historic year for Dundalk.
Godetevi la Partita,