Shane Keegan is hopeful his side’s “trojan” performance in winning the President’s Cup against Shamrock Rovers last Friday night will stand to his side when the real business starts this Saturday.
A 4-3 penalty shoot-out victory over the Hoops at Tallaght Stadium ensured a 100pc record for Dundalk in pre-season and speaking afterwards Keegan said he was pleased with the performance.
“I thought we did quite well in the first half in fairness. It was probably 50/50, I’m not saying we were running away with it in the first half or anything but I thought we did do reasonably well.
“I thought both teams were very good in possession in the first two-thirds and then in the final third both teams defensively were well on top.
“There wasn’t a huge amount of chances apart from the goal obviously but a big problem for us last season is that we were starting second halves slowly and unfortunately that was a problem again tonight and that’s something that we have to rectify as quickly as possible. Once we went down to 10, I thought it was an absolute trojan effort.
“I do think a game like tonight helps us get up to speed and gets us to where we want to be in time for Saturday’s game,” he said.
Having also pipped Rovers to the FAI Cup lats December, Keegan said he hopes the win on Friday was another psychological boost for his side and a helping hand in helping the new recruits settle in.
“You have to think it will have some psychological effect,” he said.
“We have them again in three weeks’ time and maybe they’d be thinking we have a little bit of a hoodoo over them.
“In recent games particularly, they probably had the majority of the play in the Cup final and they’ve ended up on the losing side and obviously because we went down to 10 tonight they’ve had the majority of the play and they’ve ended up on the losing side so that’s got to grate with them a little bit. I don’t know if it will work in our favour or not in a couple of weeks’ time but it can’t be a bad thing.
“With all that happened in the game it can’t but have a galvanising effect on the group and the whole thing coming together. A game like that certainly gets the new lads up to speed fairly quickly on what the league is all about. There’s no doubt it will definitely have had a positive effect on things like morale and unity and all of that,” he said.
Keegan also said he thought the red card for Sonni Nattestad was harsh.
“I’m obviously seeing it through a certain set of eyes and I can only give you my interpretation of it. He shouldn’t have left the ground in the manner that he did and that is probably what the ref will argue is the reason for the red but to my mind I didn’t think it justified a red and what annoys me a little bit more – and maybe I’m wrong because I haven’t watched it back on video yet – but I think he initially goes towards the incident reaching for his front pocket which is where his yellow card was but then all hell breaks loose and now all of a sudden he’s reaching for his back pocket where the red card is.
“I don’t really understand how the tackle has managed to change in that time.
“That’s one that I’d really really question how it has gone from one to the other but we would be really disappointed with the card that’s for sure.”
When it was suggested that perhaps he was sent-off for something that occurred in the melee that followed, Keegan said: “You could be right, I don’t know. To be honest with you I was too busy watching Joey O’Brien punch Shieldsy in the ribs two or three times to see what Sonni had done but maybe.”
The Laois man also heaped praise on goalkeeper Alessio Abibi for his penalty heroics.
“He’s mad, that’s for sure. I think we all got to see that tonight,” grinned Keegan.
“Shot stopping is definitely his forte so once it went to penalties we were fairly confident in him being able to do it. We definitely had a huge amount of homework done on the penalties.
“Graham Byas had a massive amount done and we had diagrams drawn out and we were trying to communicate the message out to Alessio as the penalty shoot out was going on but knowing what side a fella is going and actually making the stop are two different things. He’s a big, big boy and he’s athletic and he did really, really well to make the saves.”