Dundalk FC U15 Head Coach Simon Kelly said he was pleased with his side’s performance and felt there was plenty to build on after a battling 2-1 defeat at home to Klub Kildare on Sunday afternoon. 

After an impressive first period in which the Lilywhites, which saw them control the ball for large periods, they fell behind to two quickfire goals from the away side just after the first break in the game. 

Just three minutes after the second period got underway, Kildare took the lead, as attacking midfielder Kornell Ziarek got in behind the defence and skipped past onrushing goalkeeper Calum O’Reilly to slot the ball into an empty net. 

The Lilywhites were rocked by the goal against the run of play and Klub Kildare managed to capitalise on this as they bagged a second just three minutes later. Ziarek was heavily involved once again, winning the ball from Noah McGinty on the halfway line before striking from just inside the box. His effort was saved by O’Reilly but Tomasz Gwizdala was on hand to pounce on the rebound and double his team’s lead. 

Despite some defensive errors in the second period, Kelly was upbeat about his team’s display as a whole. 

“Unfortunately mistakes happen. Sometimes you have to remind both them and yourself that they’re only fourteen years old, they’re going to make mistakes,” he said. 

“They’ll probably go on to play another three or four hundred more games after this one today, so it’s all about learning but on the ball I thought they were outstanding throughout. 

“The opposition were big and strong and they took their chances on the day, but our lads passed the ball well in the first and third periods especially.

“It’s tough to maintain the standard over all three periods, it’ll take time for the players to adapt to it but if they play like that every week then we’ll be delighted.”

The game was hampered by red cards for Dundalk’s Danny Putnam and Kildare’s Zlarek, who had been so heavily involved in the away side’s attacking play to that point, but the hosts regained control and eventually got their goal on the 77 minute mark, as Conall Alfred struck a stunning half volley into the top corner from long range. 

Kelly was full of praise for Alfred’s strike afterwards, and for his performance as a whole. 

“That’s what Conall is about. He’s a really good player, and if he keeps performing to that level over the coming years then we’ll be paying in to watch him when he’s eighteen because he’ll be in a first team somewhere.”

Dundalk piled forward in search of an equaliser in the final ten minutes of the game, but couldn’t find the finishing touch as they tasted defeat in their opening game of the 2022 season. 

Despite the defeat, Kelly felt there was plenty to build on over the coming weeks and months. 

“We’ll be back in on Tuesday night and we’ll work on everything we need to work on. They’re an honest bunch so whatever we tell them has been good or bad they’ll work on it and they’ll try their best to improve it. 

“I don’t have major expectations results wise. They want to win and I want to win for them but the results don’t matter. We lost today, but we’re delighted with the performance from all of the lads.

“If we can develop the lads over the course of this year then that’s the main thing for us.”

DUNDALK FC U15: Callum O’Reilly, Rhys O’Hare, Boris Biekhou, Caimin Hughes, Noah McGinty, Danny Putnam, Fionn McNamara, Niko Lovrenkovic, Conall Alfred, Aaron Dowd, Liam O’Leary. Subs: Cian Spaight, Jayden Clarke, Fergal McEneaney, Niall O’Connor, Conor Patterson.