Shane Keegan admitted his frustration at Dundalk’s failure to get their season off to a winning start in Sligo at the weekend but was well aware they could have had no points at this stage just as easily as the one they left The Showgrounds with.

Speaking to the media afterwards, the Laois man said he felt his side were about to kick on after bright starts to both halves of the match but was relieved at the end not to have lost to Liam Buckley’s side.

Asked if the Lilywhites were hanging on a bit at the end, Keegan said: “Yep, we definitely were.

The match report from Dundalk’s opening day draw in Sligo as it appeared in The Argus on March 23rd 2021

“It was a very frustrating game because at two different stages of the game I thought we were going to kick on and win the match. We’ve gone 1-0 up and you’re thinking let’s kick on now and go and get a second and then the game is over and we haven’t managed to do that and then in the first 10 minutes of the second half we started well and Pat has hit the post and there was the one he squared back to Cammy and there was a chance for Greg.

“Again, I was thinking just put the ball in the back of the net here and we’ll go on and win this game but then it became anything but.

“You get games every now and again where both management teams are probably coming away giving out and disappointed and that was definitely the case tonight because they’ll be coming away scratching their heads as to how they didn’t win it in the end.”

Keegan said a change in formation to bring Patrick McEleney deeper had paid dividends at the start of the second half but admitted that ultimately the switch left Dundalk exposed.

“We tweaked it a little bit at half-time and 15 or 20 minutes into it you’re thinking this tweak has really worked and it is working brilliantly and then by the final whistle you’re thinking maybe that wasn’t the right thing to do at all because we’ve ended up on the back foot for so long.

“They were being very aggressive in their press which we knew they would be which meant that we thought if there’s not a huge amount of space in front of them then maybe the space is behind them so that’s probably why we tweaked it a little bit and it has worked to a certain extent. Hoban, for the first 10 or 15 minutes of the second half, has bullied the life out of them really and really put us on the front foot but with any system it’ll give you some advantage but it’ll also give you some disadvantages and they probably exploited some of the disadvantages to the tweak at that stage then as well.”

Keegan admitted there were a few occasions where the side looked like they had still some work to do in terms of bedding the new signings in but he wasn’t overly concerned about it being a factor in the long term.

“It was probably the first time that we have seen signs of lads only getting the feel for each other a little bit,” said the former Galway Utd boss.

“We probably gelled a little bit better in some of the pre-season games but at the same time it is their fourth ever time playing together so it is inevitable that they’re not going to be fully on the same wavelength but yet they were in periods.

“From our point of view we need to establish a performance over 90 minutes rather than the likes of this game where it was up and down and peaks and troughs the whole time through the game. Trying to get a bit more consistency over the 90 minutes is key for us.”

Keegan said he felt the offside call to deny Mark Byrne a late winner for Sligo was the right decision but admitted he hadn’t seen it back despite Bit O Red officials insisting afterwards the linesman had got it wrong.

“I did expect the flag to go up but bear in mind I haven’t seen a replay.

“Now when I say I expected to go up, I was also praying it would go up when I was looking down the line but I did immediately look down the line expecting to see it but until I see it back they could be right, maybe it was onside. They were certainly appealing like they felt it was. If we’ve got away with one there we’ve got away with one.”