Stephen O’Donnell says Dundalk have set an early “building block” with their opening-day draw at Shamrock Rovers, the manager impressed by the “endeavour and work ethic” of his new-look team.

Jamie Gullan’s powerful 33rd-minute free-kick made it a memorable start to the 2024 season and maximum points may have been secured had Ryan O’Kane found the net before the hour mark.

Instead, moments after his header from Daryl Horgan’s cross came back off the post, Rovers pulled level through Aaron Greene’s close-range finish.

Dundalk were forced back after that. However, the home side were unable to break down a brilliantly disciplined defence, led by the impressive central partnership of Andy Boyle and Mayowa Animasahun.

This is what the Lilywhites boss had to say afterwards.

O’Donnell on the result…
“There’s an element of the unknown, we’re such a new group. You probably would have taken a point, but we don’t approach games, to be honest, saying ‘We’ll take a point’.

“I thought we were good in moments. Obviously, we can be slicker as well to alleviate that pressure, if we get a foothold in the game, which we didn’t really in the second half. But we still looked a bit of a threat on the counter with really good combination play.

“It was a great stand-up by Horgs and a great header by Ryan, in fairness. I felt we probably could have done with that goal to have a little bit of a cushion. But all in all, I’m very happy – delighted with their application and effort.

“I think we were 11/1 to win. I’m happy with it. It’s a start, it’s a building block. If they give us that endeavour and that work ethic every week, we’ll be delighted.”

Ryan O’Kane of Dundalk in action against Neil Farrugia of Shamrock Rovers during the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division match at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

On Gullan’s goal…
“I thought it was a genuine chance. Jamie is excellent at free kicks. When (the foul) happened, I turned to the bench. On all known form, on what we know of Jamie, it’s a genuine chance at the edge of the box – it’s a great strike and a great goal.”

On Mayowa Animasahun…
“Mayowa trained really well last year. For the second half of last season, after Dungannon, he wasn’t registered to play. He has all the physical attributes, he has all the tools, and he’s done well in pre-season. He deserved his opportunity, and he did really well.

“It was great to see Ryan and Mayowa, two Academy graduates, starting on the biggest stage against the reigning league champions away from home, the first game of the season. I thought they both did really well.”

On Daryl Horgan’s 78th-minute substitution…
“He has actually been a trojan because he got really rattled. There’s a bad sort of flu going around, just post the UCD game. Daryl wouldn’t be one to complain but he was on antibiotics. He missed the Derry bounce game last week and he was still feeling the effects. I thought his effort and his quality at times was really good – he was just playing on empty at the backend there.”

On Friday night’s first home game of the season against Galway United…
“Galway are going to be direct, they got a lot of joy off of doing that last season, it’s up to us to see if we learned from the FAI Cup defeat down there, how much we have progressed. We are at Oriel, it’s a fortress, I think we have lost four games there in two years so we look forward to welcoming them.”