Stephen O’Donnell is backing his players to bounce back from last week’s FAI Cup quarter-final horror show in Galway when they take on third-placed St Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park on Friday night.
Dundalk’s dreams of a 13th FAI Cup win were left in tatters at Eamonn Deacy Park as John Caulfield’s side ripped them apart in the first half, scoring four goals without reply.
O’Donnell and the Dundalk players made their way over to the travelling support at full time where they were met by some angry supporters and, speaking on Thursday afternoon, the Lilywhites boss knows that all eyes will be on how his players respond in Inchicore.
“We deserve every bit of stick that has come our way after last Friday,” he said. “It was fully justified, and we must take it on the chin.
“I have absolutely no issues with that. We’re Dundalk Football Club, in a cup quarter-final and that performance, obviously headed by me, was unacceptable.
“Everyone’s going to be looking for a reaction. Our character’s being called into question, our personality, our professionalism, but sometimes you’ve got to embrace it, roll with the punches, enjoy the adversity and see how you come out of it.
“There’s a balance to things. You’ve got to reflect and you’ve got to speak about what happened. We went through it and even though it’s blatantly obvious, we made it known that it’s unacceptable.
“Then you have got to flip it and say ‘Right, what’s our reaction? What’s our response?’ We’re playing St Pat’s on Friday, Cork on Monday and Drogheda next Friday so what’s it going to be for the last seven games?
“It’s a balance of looking back, getting angry and then looking forward and for a response. Our backs are against the wall, we’ve had a lot of criticism, and Pat’s will be feeling that we’re vulnerable, so what are we about as a group?”
Dundalk make the trip to Richmond Park sitting sixth, seven points behind the Saints who occupy the all-important third spot that guarantees European qualification next season.
The Lilywhites haven’t won in Inchicore since the summer of 2021 when an own goal by Sam Bone and a David McMillan strike secured a 2-0 win.
Despite that, O’Donnell, who was in charge of Pat’s on that occasion, believes a win in front of the Virgin Media cameras on Friday, could ignite Dundalk on the final stretch.
“It’s a massive game, even without what happened last Friday,” he said. “We have a chance to go four points behind third so this is a massive game in the context of our league season.
“We have a chance to really condense the race for third and that’s our main focus. For all of us, we’ll be getting off the bus in Inchicore and the question is ‘What’s it going to be?’
“I’m looking forward to our reaction. The players are hard-working, they come in and train very well every day so I’m looking forward to our response and to seeing what we’re about.”
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