Dundalk U17s coach James Toner says he is delighted with the progress the players have made in the early stages of the new season.  

Toner, along with Conor Woods, Kevin Beggy and goalkeeper coach Cian Maher, have taken charge of the U17s this season, and they have been impressed with the progress of their side in the early weeks.  

“We’re delighted with the way things are going,” said Toner.  

“We were pleased to get back into competitive action after a long pre-season and we’ve had a good start to go along with that. 

“It’s a bit of a mixed bag in certain aspects, with a good performance against Derry that didn’t really show with the result, but then we won away to Cavan-Monaghan so it’s been an interesting start and everyone is delighted to be back involved with the team.” 

As well as being pleased with the progress of the players to this point, Toner is also pleased with how well the new players have settled into the team, with some coming up from the U15s and others arriving from other clubs.  

“We’re very pleased with how everyone has settled in. The performances have shown just how well they’ve settled in in these early stages of the season.  

Hugh Smith of the Dundalk U17s

“I think it’s an interesting balance we have, where some players in this group have been here for the past two years and have taken on leadership roles, while we then have lads who’ve come up from the U15s and done really well also. On top of that, the players we’ve brought in from elsewhere have done really well too, so I’m very pleased with the balance we’ve struck.” 

One of the benefits for players who’ve come into the side from the U15s is that Conor Woods is part of the coaching team, having previously been head coach of those U15s last year, and Toner feels that has been a huge benefit to not just the players, but the coaching team aswell.  

“It’s been brilliant to have Conor with us this year. He’s good enough to be head coach of any team so it’s great for us and for those players to have that continuity. Thanks to Conor, we knew all we needed to know about the lads before we even saw them play so that’s been really helpful.  

“Along with Conor, the rest of the staff have had a huge impact also. Kevin Beggy has come in as a new voice, and it’s been beneficial for him to come in and see it all without any opinions from last season, and the same can be said for Cian Maher.” 

As for the goals for the season, the aim for the coaching team is to help the older group be as prepared as possible for U19 football, and to help the younger group to continue progressing and settle into U17 football.  

“We’ve seen over the last year the likes of Senan Mullen and Dualta Honney gain recognition at international level, and I know Josh Hand was called up for an assessment at one point aswell, so I think that is a motivator for the lads who are still with us and are aiming to get called up to those assessments over the course of this season.

“You can see in the squad that the older lads are knocking on the door of the U19s already with the standard of their performances. We’ll try our hardest to get them there over the course of this season but if not this season, then they’ll definitely be ready come next season.  

“For the younger lads, they have two years to work on that, but it’s a case of the sooner the better because there are some very talented lads in this team that are capable of getting there in the near future.”