Stephen O’Donnell admits that Dundalk’s slim hopes of qualifying Europe are all but over following Friday night’s 1-0 defeat to Shelbourne at Tolka Park.

Will Jarvis’s fourth-minute strike condemned the Lilywhites to their 12th defeat of the season and leaves them four points adrift of fourth-placed Shels and seven behind third-placed St Patrick’s Athletic, who have a game in hand, with just three fixtures to play.

Dundalk failed to register a shot on target throughout the 90 minutes in Drumcondra and speaking to the media afterwards, a frustrated O’Donnell said the performance was a snapshot of the campaign as a whole.

6 October 2023; Dundalk head coach Stephen O’Donnell during the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division match between Shelbourne and Dundalk at Tolka Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

On the performance…
“It’s obviously very frustrating. We coughed up an early goal on the turnover and in the second half we huffed and puffed and had a lot of possession but didn’t create enough.”

On Dundalk’s European hopes being over…
“Yeah definitely. We have three games left and there are probably too many teams ahead of us but, ultimately, when you have our away record and you give away the goals we have given away throughout the season, you can’t expect to get Europe.”

On conceding the first goal again…
“It’s happened too many times this season that it’s gone beyond the point of it being an accident or being unlucky.”

On not registering a shot on target
“I thought the game was stretched and we had lots of possession and lots of good opportunities but we just weren’t effective enough in the final third. For the possession we had, and the areas we got into, we should have had a lot of attempts on goal but we didn’t. Again, it was a bit of a middle-third performance, a lot of possession, conceded on the counter, and didn’t create enough chances away from home. That’s been the story of our season.”

On the reasons for that…
“We’re porous at the back from counters and turnovers and then we’re not efficient in the final third to get shots away. We’re getting in enough good areas but tonight we were very reliant on crosses into the box when there was enough space to go and have a bit of clever interplay and get strikes away because they were fractured and there was enough space to do it.”

On the final three games…
“We have a break now and there’s three games left and we’ll give it our all for those. Tonight has been a snapshot of our season. I’m not sure you can question our work ethic. We need to be more slicker and have better quality. We need to stop giving goals up on counters and turnovers. But it’s a recurring theme.”

SHELBOURNE: Conor Kearns; Gavin Molloy, Paddy Barrett, Shane Griffin; JJ Lunney, Mark Coyle; Tyreke Wilson, Evan Caffrey (Shane Farrell 69), Harry Wood, Will Jarvis (Brian McManus 78) (Kameron Ledwidge 84)); Jack Moylan. Subs not used: Harry Fisk (GK), Euclides Da Silva Cabral, Luke Byrne, Gbemi Arubi.

DUNDALK FC: Nathan Shepperd; Archie Davis, Greg Sloggett, Darren Brownlie, Robbie Benson (Cameron Elliott 71); Johannes Yli-Kokko (John Martin 62), Paul Doyle (Connor Malley 53), Daryl Horgan; Daniel Kelly (Ryan O’Kane 71), Patrick Hoban, Sam Durrant (Hayden Muller 53). Subs not used: Peter Cherrie (GK),  Darragh Leahy, Andy Boyle, Keith Ward.

REFEREE: Eoghan O’Shea.