Quigley “Absolutely Phenomenal” – Byrne
Dundalk FC forward Jason Byrne has labelled his strike partner Mark Quigley “absolutely phenomenal”, after the 25-year-old put a forgettable one-year spell at Bohemians behind him to hit eight goals in his opening 11 competitive games for the Lilywhites. Six of those have been superlative strikes, with two other classy finishes, and all three league goals have been shortlisted for MNS Goal of the Month. Quigley scored just four league goals for the Gypsies last term, and having missed out on the title on only goal difference, Byrne has lamented the fact that the former Saint Patrick’s Athletic star was not played up front more by Pat Fenlon.
On the Mark
“Mark has been fantastic,” Byrne told dundalkfc.com. “That’s what he is all about. Obviously, it was a bit disappointing last year because he didn’t play as many games up front as he would have liked to. He was playing on the left, and he’s not that type of player. He’s a striker. He’s a confidence player, and you can see in his game now, he is really on fire, and long may that continue. Going forward, we’re always a threat and we always have a chance of scoring, and Mark has been absolutely phenomenal for us.” Asked if he regretted Quigley being played on the wing by Fenlon, Byrne said: “Well, hindsight is a great thing. It’s all ifs and buts, but, as I said, he probably would have wanted to be played up front more. Different managers have different ideas of players. The Gaffer seems to like Mark and obviously he is doing a job for him, which is good for us and good for the team.”
Dundalk returned to winning ways last Friday with a 3-1 victory over UCD at Oriel Park, having lost a 2-0 lead at Richmond Park seven days earlier, and Byrne stated: “It was important to bounce back. Obviously, we were disappointed with the week before and the performance, especially to let a two-goal lead slip. We have got to cut out the mistakes. We were a bit better against UCD. There were passages of the game in the first half where we weren’t up to scratch, but in the second half we came out and played well. It seems to be the norm; we can’t get a full 90 minutes together.” The Students pulled a goal back with quarter of the game left, and after what happened in Inchicore, Byrne said: “It’s always in the back of your mind. But I think the lads at the back played really well. They were well organised. We were a bit all over the shop with St. Pat’s bombarding balls. But I knew UCD wouldn’t do that, they’re not that type of team. We were still comfortable even at 2-1. We had the players and the craft to get another goal, which was good, and it gave us a bit of leeway at the end.”
Byrne’s 72nd-minute strike secured maximum points for Dundalk, and having missed a number of earlier openings, the 33-year-old admitted it was a “huge relief” to get on the scoresheet. “I had quite a few chances the other night and the ‘keeper seemed to be saving a lot of them,” he said. “It’s one of those things, it frustrates you. But it’s important to keep on trying and trying and not let it get to you too much. I was delighted when it went in. It was a huge relief.” The goal brought Byrne’s tally for the club to three, having also netted against Shamrock Rovers and Galway United, and speaking on his own form, he said: “I’m enjoying my football. I like playing up front with Mark, because he can turn a game just like that. He can come short for the ball and I can get it long, and I’m getting plenty of chances. In the last few games, I probably didn’t stay as high as I could have. Darius (Kierans) had a word with me to stay high against UCD, and I think that’s how I got all my chances.
In the mix
“It’s something for myself and Mark, for him to drop and get the ball short, and me to get it long,” Byrne added. “That’s where I’m going to get my chances, and obviously then hopefully show my striking prowess and score a few goals for us.” Dundalk have seven points on the board after five games, one less than third-placed Derry, but Byrne feels that they should have more to show for their performances. “If you look back at the games,” he said, “we should have had a penalty against Bohs, we could have won that game, we could have beaten Rovers, we were doing well up until half-time, and obviously then St. Pat’s. We have got to be disappointed with those games, but it’s not to be. The league is not won in the first series of games. We’re still in the mix, and we have got to be happy with how the team is gelling now.” The Lilywhites followed up their win over UCD with another 3-1 victory, against Cliftonville at Solitude on Monday. “The first half wasn’t up to scratch,” Byrne assessed of the performance in Belfast.
“The Gaffer had a few harsh words to say at half-time,” the Dubliner went on to reveal, “which were warranted, to get us up for it. I don’t think we actually realised we were in a game until the Gaffer had a go. He got a response out of us at half-time, and Quigs came up with two great goals.” The result added to first-leg wins over Linfield and Glentoran in the Northern Ireland capital, but Byrne is taking nothing for granted. “It’s only half-time,” he said. “There is still a long way to go. It’s important that the likes of Hawks (Colin Hawkins) and myself, and the other experienced players, get around the lads and make sure we don’t get too carried away and ahead of ourselves, and keep it tight. Linfield and Glentoran came here and were out of the blocks very sharp and put us under pressure. It’s very important to get the early goal, and if we can get that then we should kill them off.”
This weekend sees Dundalk travel to The Brandywell for the first time since September 2009 when goals from Thomas Stewart, Tam McManus and Liam Kearney gave Derry a 3-0 win. On the night, the Lilywhites had Alex Williams sent-off for quick-fire yellow cards and Peter Cherrie saved a second-half penalty from Mark Farren. The Candystripes also won the last meeting, on the final day of the 2009 season, when a Gareth McGlynn spot-kick and late Clive Delaney header gave them a 2-1 come-from-behind victory at Oriel Park. Dundalk had lost just one of the previous nine meetings, having won the first two encounters in 2009, both on a 1-0 scoreline, Darren Mansaram netting the winner in Derry on 24 April. “Since I’ve been playing League of Ireland, it has always been very hard to win up there,” Byrne said. “I don’t think I’ve won that many times there, probably about three or four times. But we have a team capable of going anywhere and winning, as we have showed this year. If we do our jobs as the Gaffer asks, I think we should be OK.”
For the trip to Derry, Dundalk manager Ian Foster will again be without central midfielder Greg Bolger, who will be absent until the end of May with a thigh strain, while left-back Eoghan Osborne is out until July at the earliest with a fractured tibia. Central midfielder Stephen Maher is also sidelined for 4-6 weeks after receiving an injection to cure torn groin muscles. The fitness of fellow midfielder Dean Bennett (hamstring strain) is still being monitored. The 33-year-old has missed the last five games through an injury picked up in the first half of the match against Galway United on 11 March. Foster has no suspension worries.
Stat Attack: Dundalk left-back Nathan Murphy made his club debut as a late substitute against Derry City at The Brandywell on 4 September 2009. In June 2008, Quigley, then at St. Pat’s, scored a hat-trick at The Brandywell in a 3-0 win.
Referee: Damien Hancock (Dublin).