Mayowa Animasahun was understandably all smiles after marking his full debut for the club with a superb performance in Tuesday night’s FAI Cup quarter-final replay win over Finn Harps at Oriel Park.

After a nervy start, the 18-year-old quickly settled into his role alongside Darragh Leahy at the heart of the Lilywhites defence and made some crucial tackles and clearances throughout as Dundalk overran Ollie Horgan’s side after extra time.

The biggest crowd that Oriel Park has witnessed since the onset of the pandemic cheered Vinny Perth’s men on and, speaking to afterwards, the former Glenmuir United starlet paid tribute to the supporters who gave him and his teammates a rousing reception at full time.

“The crowd won us the game, for sure,” he said. “I think they were the 12th man tonight. They carried us on after we conceded a goal early and they were really loud throughout.

“It’s brilliant to see them back and it’s amazing to hear. It was great celebrating with them when we scored the second and third goals as well. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”

Animasahun became the second academy player to make his full debut for the club this season, following in the footsteps of his former Dundalk Schoolboys League teammate Ryan O’Kane.

Dundalk FC head coach Vinny Perth, pictured with Mayowa Animashaun after the FAI Cup quarter-final replay win over Finn Harps at Oriel Park. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfilee

Perth also handed U19 players Ebuka Kwelele, another Glenmuir United graduate, and Enda Douglas their first taste of senior action before the full-time whistle. Kwelelke even finished the game wearing the captain’s armband following Patrick Hoban’s withdrawal.

“It’s good to see local boys coming through the academy now,” said Animasahun, “and it’s always nice to get the opportunity to show what we are capable of.

“I’ve played with Ryan straight through the different age groups, since we were about 13 at the Kennedy Cup together, so it’s nice to be able to come through with someone you know so well.”

Mayowa’s full debut was made even sweeter by having his family in attendance, something which only added to the sense of occasion for the young defender.

“It was brilliant playing in front of my family and friends, especially when it’s your hometown club. I’ll always get stick off my brother no matter what, but it felt good to have my family here tonight supporting me!”

He may have made a dream debut but Mayowa isn’t getting carried away and with quickfire league games against Sligo Rovers and Bohemians on the horizon, he said he was just focused on working hard in preparation for any future senior appearances.

“I just want to keep my feet on the ground now. Whatever happens, happens, I’ll just keep working hard to be prepared for my next opportunity.”