Dundalk worthy champions says “over-the-moon” Connolly
It was a night of celebration at Oriel Park on Friday as Dundalk Football Club were crowned champions of Ireland for the 13th time, claiming their fourth league title in just five seasons.
Pat Hoban’s dramatic 90th minute winner – a club record 26th goal of the season – secured the 2018 SSE Airtricity League crown with three games to spare and kick-started celebrations for a delighted squad of players, including winger Dylan Connolly.
“Champions of Ireland – it feels great,” Connolly told dundalkfc.com after the players emerged from a jubilant, champagne-soaked dressing room.
“Words can’t describe the feeling until you win it. That’s what I came here to do – to win trophies – and thankfully I’ve won a title now. I’m over the moon.
“The last minute equaliser felt like a winner. Obviously it wasn’t our best performance tonight but we got over the line and we’re champions now. That’s all that matters.
“Champions of Ireland with three games to go. It’s a great feeling, so hats off to all the players, staff and everyone in the club.
“We feel we’re worthy champions. We’ve probably the best squad in the league. Everyone’s played their part and has been top drawer. The professionalism shown by everyone has been great.”
Whilst the senior members of Stephen Kenny’s squad have been a part of all four title-winning outfits, for many of the newer recruits it was a first League of Ireland title.
Connolly, who joined the Lilywhites from Bray Wanderers in July 2017, is among them and whilst he was keen to celebrate a landmark achievement, he was already looking ahead to a bright future for this young squad.
“It’s a weird feeling,” said the Dubliner. “Now you’ve won it, you’re looking to the next one.
“There will be celebrations tonight but I’m already thinking ahead to the next league. I’m only 23 and we’ve a lot of young players, so we want to see how many we can win.
“It’s new motivation for you. It’s great to win a league, but we go again next year now.”
Connolly puts that motivation down to the high standards demanded across the squad and the professionalism shown by everyone from manager Stephen Kenny downwards.
“The gaffer has been great,” says Connolly. “This is his fourth title here and his CV doesn’t lie. He’s produced some amazing players over the years and it’s great to work under him, so long may it continue.
“But also Vinny Perth, Ruaidhrí Higgins, Eoin Clarkin, the physios, all the back room team – they’ve all been great. Everyone plays their part and we wouldn’t win the league without the combined effort of everyone involved. We’re all delighted.”
The squad will regroup at Oriel Park tomorrow (Monday) where their focus will turn to a trip to Waterford on Friday – the first of three remaining league games before the season’s grand finale at the FAI Cup final in November and the chance to win a league and cup double.
“The cup final is a massive game,” said Connolly. “The Aviva Stadium, a big final. It’s massive.
“We’ve got a few weeks to prepare now with the league wrapped up and we’ll be focussing on that now, so come the fourth of November we’ll be ready to go.
“Hopefully we can do the double and that will be another great night. You’ve got to enjoy these times when you can.”