Shane Keegan defended goalkeeper Alessio Abibi after his howler paved the way for Finn Harps to record a first win over Dundalk in almost 14 years at Oriel Park last night.

The Albanian was caught in possession by Adam Foley three minutes before half-time as the striker charged down his attempted clearance with the ball deflecting to the net.

Despite Patrick Hoban pulling a goal back for the home side three minutes after the restart, Foley beat the Dundalk offside trap to get the better of Abibi again in the 63rd minute to ensure Ollie Horgan’s side made it two wins from two at the start of the new SSE Airtricity League Premier Division season.

The article as it appeared in The Argus on March 30th 2021

It was the Donegal side’s first win over the Lilywhites in any competition since a 2-0 play-off victory in November 2007 and the first time they had won at Oriel Park in almost 15 years since a 3-1 victory in May 2006.

While most of the spotlight fell on Abibi after his error, team manager Keegan refused to point the finger at the 24-year-old saying the overall performance “wasn’t good enough” on the night.

“The goal is the goal but I’ve no real quarrel with the goal,” he said.

“We got a point out of Sligo last week because of Alessio and we won the President’s Cup the week before because of Alessio.

“Something like that will happen to a keeper. Now it shouldn’t happen to him more than once or twice in a season but when it does happen you’re relying on the rest of your team to get you out of jail and show enough quality to go and win the game anyway when something like that happens to you but unfortunately we haven’t done that,” said the Laois man.

Keegan said he didn’t think the error would impact Abibi’s confidence going forward.

“I doubt it. I like him. He’s a larger than life personality and, not that it will be water off a duck’s back to him, but he is big and bold enough to be able to deal with something like that.

“I don’t think it will hit his confidence and I think he will bounce back next week. He has made one outstanding save in the second half so I think he’ll be fine.”

Keegan said it was disappointing how little his side created and admitted the lack of matches in pre-season might have had an impact on the performance.

“It’s the conclusion you’d jump to after a result like that,” he said.

“The lack of bodies was a big problem for us as well. We think we’ve recruited really well and yet we were without four or five of those bodies that we’ve brought in. That said, we’ve put out a team onto the pitch that is good enough to go and win the game as well so it’s very little excuse for us to be able to lean on.

“Half an hour into the game Ollie is roaring at his lads to try and get into the game. We have dominated but we’ve dominated in terms of possession but let’s be honest, we haven’t created a huge amount for all the possession that we’ve had.”

The former Galway Utd boss said it was now important that Dundalk bounced back against Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght on Friday night.

“We have zero time to feel sorry for ourselves,” he said.

“It’s Rovers, followed by Bohs, followed by Pat’s. If we’re going to wallow in self-pity then the season will be over before we get our act together so we’ve zero time to feel sorry for ourselves.

“We’ve got to put in an incredible week of hard work next week and we need to engage the brains as a collective and figure out what wasn’t good enough and how we’re going to fix it and just get to work on it,” said Keegan.