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Dundalk head coach Stephen O’Donnell believes that Friday night’s Jim Malone Cup tie against Drogheda United at Weaver’s Park will be of huge benefit to his new players going into the new League of Ireland season.

Louie Annesley, Connor Malley, Hayden Muller, Archie Davies and Cameron Elliott all featured in the tie, which the Drogs won on penalties, and O’Donnell said it was the ideal preparation for the league encounter between the sides at the same venue on March 16th.

“Because of the noise and atmosphere around the penalty shootout, you actually think it’s a proper competition so it was great for our players to get a feel for it. It felt like a league match from an atmosphere point of view.

“There was talk that the game might have been played at Oriel Park but I was adamant that I wanted it played at Weaver’s Park so the lads could get a good feel of a place where we will come at least twice this season.”

Robbie Benson and Darragh Leahy both came off the bench to make their first appearance of 2023 and O’Donnell said he expected Nathan Shepperd and Paul Doyle, who both sat the game out with ankle knocks, to be back for Tuesday’s final pre-season friendly against Wexford FC at Oriel Park.

Robbie McCourt will miss the next month after undergoing a hernia operation.

Daniel Kelly is also expected to resume training next week and the club are waiting on a second opinion regarding John Mountney’s knee injury but the Lilywhites will be without Robbie McCourt for the next month after the defender underwent surgery on his hernia this week.

“Robbie went on on Wednesday and int went well. He came back from the off-season in great physical condition and he was flying fit so I don’t think it’s a major one and I’d expect him to be back training with the group in the next three or four weeks.”

O’Donnell also sent his condolences to his former Dundalk teammate and good friend Ruaidhri Higgins, who sadly lost his brother Kevin on Friday morning.

“I was only saying it to my mother earlier today, who cares about football when you get a call like that? I’m obviously very close to Ruaidhri and his parents Danny and Mary. I met Kevin a few times and I’m devastated and heartbroken for them all. It puts everything into perspective.”

You can watch O’Donnell’s full post-match interview at the top of the page.