In Full: Stephen O’Donnell’s programme notes for the League of Ireland clash with Shamrock Rovers.

I was delighted with our second-half display against St Patrick’s Athletic on Monday night. We were a little bit passive in the first half but we showed our power and athleticism when we went down to 10 men and I thought the players were immense for the last 35, 40 minutes and I thought we dominated the game.

One of the most pleasing aspects was that similar to the win over Drogheda United on Friday night, all of our subs made an impact. Dickie Kelly obviously scored and Hayden Muller, Darragh Leahy and Cami Elliott all had a big hand in the second half.

Unfortunately, Cami went off with a calf injury and he was due to have it assessed on Wednesday. When you send a player on and then he has to come off it’s disappointing but I don’t think we would have got the points return we did on Friday and Monday without him playing.

We knew he was carrying a little bit of a niggle and we were hoping to get away with it. We didn’t start him in Drogheda and we were trying to get away without using him if at all possible but I don’t regret taking a chance with him because he was a massive contributor to the four points we picked up over the weekend.

It’s unfortunate for him and for us because he’s been showing hunger and desire and his performances in training saw him force his way into the team and made us change our system. He came from amateur football in Scotland and he wants to really maximise his potential and go places. He’s been brilliant over the past couple of weeks and I think, athletically, you can see the amount of scope he has to improve.

As a team, need to show more authority when we’re starting games because Monday night was the 16th time we fell behind first this season – which is relegation form. It’s a testament to the character and personality of the players that we took something out of the game because the stats show that if you go one down, it can be difficult. We know we need to rid ourselves of that and we need to start games more aggressively and start games the way we end up finishing them. If we can do that on a consistent basis, I think there’s real scope for us to get even better.

We have a young team, a new team, and we’re obviously going to have bumps along the way but people need to put things in perspective and I would ask supporters to consider where we’ve come from over the last 18 months. From a resources point of view, we’re in and around fifth or sixth in the league so for us to come third, level on points with Derry last year, and be three points off second place again this year is something that the players deserve a huge amount of credit for.

That might look like I’m trying to create a narrative that suits me but that’s not the case. It’s just the truth. The landscape around the league has changed so much since I first came to Dundalk back in 2013. Clubs are a lot more secure now. Shamrock Rovers have done their business right. They have good backing financially but they’ve sold well and they’ve created a huge product with their academy, their first team, the depth of their squad, and the players they can go and sign. Derry City have big backing from their chairman, Bohemians are on a really good footing, Pat’s have sold young players and did well in Europe last year, as did Sligo Rovers, and now Shelbourne, and possibly Drogheda, have new investors on board so there’s real money in the league now.

The transfer window opens on Saturday and we do need a bit of help in regard to freshening up the squad and getting some reinforcements in. Every team we’re competing with, and every team who’s trying to qualify for Europe, is going to strengthen. Shels have new owners and are going to strengthen, Bohemians are going to go at it more from a resources point of view, Pat’s and Derry already have, and will again, and then you have Shamrock Rovers.

We’re losing players. Wasiri Williams left last week and Rayhaan Tulloch’s loan deal is up after this evening’s game and he will go back to West Brom. Even if they were still here, we would have still needed to bring more players in because with Europe coming up, we have more games. We need to strengthen, it’s as simple as that but it remains to be seen if we can or not. I feel that we have the nucleus of an exciting young squad that, with a couple of really good additions, wouldn’t be too far away but it’s important that we bridge that gap because we’re aware that other teams are going to use this window as an opportunity to strengthen for the second half of the season.

Enjoy the game, and thanks for your support!

Stephen O’Donnell