Giovagnoli off to a winning start as Lilywhites see off Cobh
Filippo Giovagnoli’s tenure as Dundalk first-team coach opened with a win at St Colman’s Park on Sunday evening as a rocket from Dane Massey and a penalty from David McMillan booked the Lilywhites a place in the quarter-finals of the FAI Cup.
The Italian, who took over from Vinny Perth last Tuesday, faced a tough first assignment but the Lilywhites overcame the combination of a spirited display by the hosts and a very difficult surface to pick up a much-needed win that will, hopefully, inject some confidence into the squad.
Giovagnoli made five changes to the side that was beaten in Sligo six days earlier with Andy Boyle, Dane Massey, Sean Murray, Stefan Colovic and Will Patching coming in for Daniel Cleary, Daniel Kelly, Darragh Leahy, John Mountney and Patrick McEleney respectively.
He was forced into another late change before kick-off when Patrick Hoban withdrew from the starting XI after suffering a groin strain in the warm-up. McMillan, whose last start for Dundalk came in the 2017 FAI Cup final, was his replacement and the striker played a key role in the win.
A dry, bobbly pitch made life difficult for both teams early on but the visitors stuck to their new coach’s insistence on building from the back. That led to a couple of teething problems and Ian Turner had the first sighting of the afternoon, shooting over the top for with eight minutes played after taking advantage of a loose pass caused by the surface.
Dundalk started to exert themselves on the Cobh backline after that and Sean Hoare was unlucky with a crossfield pass that picked out Michael Duffy at the far post but the winger can’t direct his header on target.
The clearest opening arrived of the game up to that point arrived in the 18th minute when McMillan found himself with a clear sighting of goal after collecting a nice pass from Patching but Sean Barron stood tall to save with his legs and keep the game scoreless.
The visitors mounted a sustained period of pressure as the game approached the half-hour mark and a good passage of play ended with Patching’s cross-cum-shot tipped behind by Barron with 27 minutes played.
The deadlock was blown apart two minutes later as Massey put the seal on a zippy, well-worked team move. McMillan, Shields and Colovic were all involved on the right and when the Serbian switched play to Duffy on the opposite flank, Massey went galloping up on the overlap to accept the lay-off and hammer a ferocious drive in off the underside of the bar.
Cobh huffed and puffed throughout and Stuart Ashton’s side wasted a golden opportunity to draw level just two minutes after the goal when Charlie Lyons met a free kick in the six-yard box but despite finding himself in acres of space he headed straight at Gary Rogers.
The traffic mostly flowed one way in the second half and McMillan’s devilish ball across the face of goal deserved better in the opening stages. The striker buzzed with intent again in the 51st minute, breaking into the box but Barron rushed from his line to stop him in his tracks.
Giovagnoli introduced a number of substitutes midway through the half and Daniel Kelly made a big impression, fizzing a couple of brilliant crosses into the danger zone that just cried out for a finish.
Another forceful run in the 78th minute ended in the young Dubliner going down in the penalty area. Cobh defender Greg Henry had every right to feel aggrieved with referee Alan Patchell’s decision to point to the spot and McMillan racked up goal number 75 for the club with the penalty to get life under Filippo off to a positive start.
COBH RAMBLERS: Sean Barron, John Kavanagh, Darryl Walsh (Stephen O’Leary 55), Ben O’Riordan, Charlie Lyons; Ian Turner (Nathan Coleman 86), David Hurley, Martin Coughlan (Greg Henry 55), Conor Drinan (Bryan Murphy 86), Darragh Crowley (Cameron Harlson 61), Lee Devitt. Subs not used: Gavin Ryan (GK), Mikey Foley.
DUNDALK FC: Gary Rogers; Sean Hoare, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Sean Murray (Daniel Kelly 67); Stefan Colovic (John Mountney 67), Will Patching (Jordan Flores 54), Michael Duffy (Sean Gannon 80), David McMillan. Subs not used: Aaron McCarey (GK), Darragh Leahy, Nathan Oduwa.
REFEREE: Alan Patchell.