Dundalk head coach Filippo Giovagnoli has tipped his side to challenge for the league title next season on the back of their strong finish to the season.

The Italian, who was officially confirmed as Vinny Perth’s successor on a full-time basis last week, returned to his home town of Apecchio on Friday following the end of the club’s season against Arsenal the night before.

He returned home with an FAI Cup medal in his bag on the back of his side’s 4-2 win over Shamrock Rovers five days earlier but reflecting on his first three and a half months in Ireland at the weekend, Giovagnoli said his time here would have been a success regardless of that famous win at the Aviva Stadium.

“For sure, it was nice to come home with a medal but in my eyes the season was already successful because we arrived in a situation where we didn’t know anything. The club gave us a task that we achieved and the rest was just a plus.

“Of course, if you’re on the outside you don’t know what is going on internally. There was a lot of criticism about our league form but with all due respect the league was completely secondary and I had to respect what the club was asking of me.

“We struggled a little bit in the league but there were reasons for that. I’m pretty sure that if we had focused on the league then without doubt we’d have won the majority of the games. I have no doubt on that.

“With the time to prepare, this team along with Shamrock Rovers are the strongest team in Ireland. It was just about priorities but we finished well with the Cup and showed Dundalk is still a top team in Ireland. Next year now we’ll compete again for the league.”

The 50-year-old hinted that the displays towards the end of the season were close to the style he wants to implement in 2021.

“I was delighted with the performance against Arsenal because we did what we decided to do which was to play face to face, retain the ball and where possible show quality in possession without panic. This is our idea of football and this is what we will try to implement in the pre-season.

“Of course, the FAI Cup final was different but in a final you play to win, you don’t play to play well. The only thing that counts is the victory and you have to get it in any way possible. I thought in that game we showed more desire, more strength and we deserved the win.”