Dundalk will be hoping to make it six in-a-row when they face neighbours Drogheda Utd in the annual Jim Malone Cup match at United Park this Saturday (kick-off 1pm).
Amazingly, the Lilywhites had won the annual local friendly between the two Co Louth sides just twice since its inception in 1997 in 2000 and 2010 before starting the current sequence of wins with a 2-0 win at Oriel Park in February 2015 courtesy of goals from Andy Boyle and Ciaran O’Connor.
They then retained the trophy in honour of the late Dundalk chairman Jim Malone, who passed away in October 1996, for the first time 12 months later with another 2-0 win at United Park thanks to goals in either half from Ciaran Kilduff.
While the game wasn’t played in 2017, Dundalk made it three, four and five wins in-a-row respectively with a 3-1 win in 2018, a 5-1 win a year later and a 2-0 win at the start of last season courtesy of a rare headed goal from Jordan Flores before Georgie Kelly made sure of the win with a second 10 minutes from the end.
Drogheda’s last win came courtesy of penalties at United Park in 2014. It looked like Gavin Brennan’s 21st minute strike would give the Boynesiders the win until Patrick Hoban popped up with a 92nd minute equaliser. However, for the eighth time in the competition’s history Drogheda would prevail in a shoot-out, winning 5-4 after Daryl Horgan’s spot kick was saved by Micheal Schlingermann.
Saturday’s game, which is expected to be streamed by Drogheda Utd, will be the 21st match in the competition between the Co Louth rivals with the current record reading Drogheda 13, Dundalk 7.
This year’s match between Filippo Giovagnoli and Tim Clancy’s sides is expected to be keenly contested following Drogheda’s promotion back to the Premier Division last season.
Amongst the former Dundalk players in the Drogheda Utd squad are goalkeeper David Odumosu, forward Ronan Murray and full back Dane Massey who departed Oriel Park in January after eight seasons and 15 trophy wins. Indeed, it was the 32-year-old who lifted the trophy for Dundalk in the corresponding fixture last year.
Massey, who was sidelined with a hip injury after scoring in Giovagnoli’s first game in charge away to Cobh Ramblers last August, has yet to feature for his new employers due to a calf problem so could be in line for a debut against the side where he earned legendary status in his old number 14 shirt.
When Dundalk return to pre-season training at the end of the month there will be a few familiar faces missing. While Lilywhite supporters have had several weeks to contemplate a future without the likes of Gary Rogers, Sean Gannon, Dane Massey, John Mountney and Sean Hoare, James Rogers looks back on the contribution of five players who collectively won an incredible 67 honours during their time at Oriel Park.
Gary Rogers Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to Gary Rogers is that he made people very quickly forget about his predecessor Peter Cherrie, the hugely popular goalkeeper he who he was brought in to replace just weeks after the first league win of this era at the end of 2014. Rogers had his critics at times, which you’d expect given his position, but even in his few bad moments he had a remarkable resilience to always be able to bounce back – even overcoming a broken bone in his hand to regain his place in the side after briefly being dropped in 2016. As someone who witnessed Rogers in action perhaps more than most, there are so many moments when he made a big save at 0-0 or 1-0 before Dundalk went on to win 2-0 or 3-0. To those just looking at results, it regularly looked like a comfortable win for his side but it could have been so different but for his contribution. On a grander scale, Dundalk would not have been able to pull off that memorable victory over BATE Borisov in Tallaght in 2016 were it not for some top saves from Rogers in the first leg in Belarus in which Stephen Kenny’s side were fortunate to escape with just a 1-0 defeat. As well as equalling Alan O’Neill’s record of 23 clean sheets in a league season – also achieved with Dundalk in 1990/91 – Rogers made crucial saves in shoot-out victories away to Riga and Sheriff in 2019 and 2020 which not only earned the club millions in revenue but also arguably saved Vinny Perth’s job in Latvia and earned Filippo Giovagnoli his in Moldova.
Sean Gannon Had you told me Sean Gannon would go on to the career he had after his Dundalk debut in March 2014 I’d have laughed at you. A relative unknown when he was signed from St Patrick’s Athletic by Stephen Kenny, Gannon was given a truly torrid time by Gavin Brennan as Drogheda won 4-1 at United Park. He was taken out of the firing line after 80 minutes of that game and actually dropped for the following week’s victory at home to Limerick in which his replacement Mark Rossiter both scored and gave a man of the match display. A hamstring injury for Rossiter late on in that game gave Gannon an immediate route back into the side though and he never looked back, even scoring a memorable team goal to cap off a resounding 4-1 win for his side away to then champions St Patrick’s Athletic a few weeks later which really showed that Stephen Kenny’s side were ready to challenge for the title. He has been largely a fixture in the side since then and the fact Dundalk dropped 16 points in the eight league matches he missed in 2017 shows how important he became. He would chip in with some big goals over the years too, most notable the 1-0 win over Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght in 2019 and in the EA Sports Cup final away to Derry City in the same year. He was also one of the side’s biggest attacking threats with his cross for Patrick McEleney’s winner in the 2018 FAI Cup final one fo the most memorable of his many assists. It will be tough seeing him in Rovers colours next season but it shouldn’t taint his achievements for Dundalk.
John Mountney Of all the departures from Oriel Park this winter, John Mountney’s probably tugs on the heart strings the most. Having been part of the squad which narrowly avoided relegation in the play-off in 2012 – a year when the club itself was perhaps fortunate to survive – his story, along with that of Chris Shields, was one of the best. The Mayo man had been there during the dark days but went on to play a big role in the best ones. While he might never have achieved the status of a regular, Mountney was frequently called upon for the big occasion and never really let the side down. Indeed, he was the side’s lucky general with Dundalk winning on each occasions in which he scored. Mountney would have been 10 seasons at Oriel Park this year but it’s understandable that he feels, at 27, that he needs a new challenge and to play more regularly. One of the biggest compliments you can give him is that he arrived at Oriel Park as a teenager and always carried himself with the utmost class and dignity when it would have been easy for someone of his age living away from home for the first time to let success go to their head. Dundalk will miss Mountney’s versatility going forward but hopefully as a town we haven’t seen the last of him. At the end of last year he got engaged to local girl Shannon Moran – a member of a well known family from Bay Estate – so he will still be a familiar sight in the area at least. A quiet lad overall, he’ll have some story to tell in years to come.
Dane Massey Often the most overlooked of Dundalk’s famous back four in which he regularly featured alongside Gannon, Gartland and Boyle, there was definitely no lack of appreciation for Dane Massey from Dundalk supporters. For much of his time at Oriel Park he was Denis Irwin-like – solid in defence, a threat in attack and ultra consistent. While rightly remembered for his defensive displays, Dane scored some big goals over the years for the club as well. His superb double in the 3-2 EA Sports Cup final win over Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park in September 2014 earned Stephen Kenny’s side the first trophy of this era while he also scored the first goals of both Vinny Perth and Filippo Giovagnoli’s reigns. A bit like Tommy McConville against Celtic in 1979, people in years from now will always wonder what might have happened had Massey’s effort – at a time in which Dundalk were 1-0 up – had gone in off the post rather than rebounded off it against Zenit St Petersburg in Tallaght in 2016. Of all the departures this off-season, the left back’s is perhaps the saddest. Having scored a cracker away to Cobh Ramblers in Giovagnoli’s first game in charge, he would suffer a hip injury in training in the days after that which required surgery that ended his season. It was cruel for all players who ended their time at the club this year that they didn’t get to sign off in front of fans who had adored them for so long but the fact Massey’s time at the club came to an end doing TV punditry was not what he deserved for his service at Oriel Park.
Sean Hoare While it’s fair to say that Sean Hoare is perhaps not held in the same sort of bracket of affection as the other four long-serving members of the squad which departed Oriel Park this winter, I’d imagine history will remember him more fondly. Many players can only dream of scoring a goal in an FAI Cup final but Hoare got to do it twice as Dundalk lifted the trophy in 2018 and 2020. While he perhaps isn’t as adored as the others having only joined in the days after the memorable 2016 season came to an end, Hoare made a superb contribution to title wins in 2018 and 2019 which shouldn’t be forgotten. His leap to score against Rovers when Dundalk clinched the title at Oriel Park in September 2019 summed up the sort of threat he offered at set pieces. He was a player with a fantastic attitude who was often selfless to his own detriment. An accomplished centre half, he was often asked to fill in at either right back or in central midfield. While he did many a fine job there, at times he was exposed as well from not playing in his best position. Another who has departed for Shamrock Rovers, his legacy at the club shouldn’t be forgotten just because of where he has ended up. It sums up how successful the last decade or so has been in the club’s history that another departure this week, Jordan Flores, won every trophy possible during his time here and yet will probably only be a footnote in the club’s history. Hoare made a big contribution to recent success and that shouldn’t be forgotten or overlooked.
Will Patching, Joshua Gatt and Dane Massey were the unfortunate trio to miss out when Dundalk submitted their squad for the group stages of the Europa League last week.
Massey, who has featured in 28 European matches for the club, has a long-term injury while Patching and Gatt were unable to be included in the panel as the Lilywhites had reached quotas for non-home grown players.
Giovagnoli said it was a difficult decision to leave players out but said those impacted had taken it well. “It’s always difficult to leave out players but you have to make decisions and by the rules I could only name a certain number of players and I had to make tough decisions,” he said.
“I did that by what I’ve seen on the pitch and who can give the team at this moment the best support.
“I would love to bring everyone with me but I can’t. We had decisions to make but the players are professional and they accepted it.”
Teenager Jamie Wynne, who was part of the squad for the trip to Moldova and the playoff win over KÍ Klaksvik, is named on List B which includes players born on or after January 1st, 1998 who have been eligible to play for the club for an uninterrupted period of two years after their 15th birthday.
Elsewhere in Group B, Mesut Ozil was the high-profile omission from Arsenal’s squad for the group stages. The Dundalk Europa League squad in full is as follows…
Goalkeepers: Gary Rogers, Aaron McCarey, Jimmy Corcoran.
Defenders: Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Sean Hoare, Darragh Leahy, Daniel Cleary, Cameron Dummigan, Andy Boyle.
Midfielders: Chris Shields, Jordan Flores, John Mountney, Greg Sloggett, Patrick McEleney, Sean Murray, Stefan Colovic, Daniel Kelly.
Attackers: Michael Duffy, Patrick Hoban, Nathan Oduwa, David McMillan, Jamie Wynne.
Dane Massey kickstarted the Vinny Perth era with the opening goal in the President’s Cup final against Cork City at Turner’s Cross almost 19 months ago. That would turn out to be the catalyst for a glorious season in which Dundalk also clinched silverware in the EA Sports Cup, Unite the Union Champions Cup and of course the SSE Airtricity League.
This season hasn’t gone quite as well needless to say but after also scoring the first goal of Filippo Giovagnoli’s reign against Cobh Ramblers on Sunday, the full back sent a warning to the rest of the league: Write us off at your peril.
While Dundalk are nine points adrift of Shamrock Rovers at the top of the table, Massey insists he and his team-mates haven’t thrown the towel in on the title and says there is much more to come from the Lilywhites this season.
“We’re not giving up on anything,” he said.
“We can still have a hugely successful season this year and that’s the attitude we have throughout the squad. It’s all positive from here.
“It has been a bit of a crazy period. Obviously Vinny was here a long, long time and he was always one of the lads. It was heartbreaking to see him go especially under those terms as well but this core group of players have been here for six or seven years as well. We haven’t turned into bad players overnight.
“We’re extremely confident that we’ll do well in the league but every team goes through a sticky patch and unfortunately for us we’re the top team in the league so everybody watches us. When you go through one sticky game people think your careers are over but not this group.
“We can turn it around. Our confidence levels are high now and we’re backing each other,” said Massey.
The 32-year-old said the players have reacted well to Giovagnoli since his arrival at Oriel Park last week.
“It was important that we started well and it was a professional performance from the lads today.
“We’re all happy and confidence is up. We’ve had a great week. Training has been excellent and everyone has really stepped it up now for the new manager. It’s a clean slate so it has been a good week.
“The back four worked tremendously hard this week. We’ve probably been annoyed a bit of the criticism. The new manager has come in and changed it around a little bit but a clean sheet was definitely on our minds and we were successful in that.”
He was also happy to chip in with what was his 29th career goal.
“I’ll take them any way they come,” he laughed.
“I was just happy to help the team out with a goal. We’ve been going through a bit of a sticky patch but I’m fully confident that we’ll get through this.
“We’ve no game this weekend. Don’t get me wrong, we would have loved to play in Derry but it’s a good opportunity for Filippo and Giuseppe to have a good look at the lads and we can get stuck into the Europa League then and whatever other fixtures are coming up,” he said.
Dundalk’s number 14 Dane Massey couldn’t hide his delight after striking on the 14th to make it 14 games without a win for Derry City at Oriel Park on Friday night.
The 31-year-old scored the only goal of the game 11 minutes from the end to help his side to their first winning start to a season since beating Shamrock Rovers in 2017.
Speaking afterwards, a beaming Massey gave much of the plaudits to substitute Jordan Flores, whose corner he met on the volley to strike through the legs of Conor McCormack.
“It was a great ball in by Jordan,” he said.
“We had numerous set pieces tonight and we did look threatening but I caught it sweet and thankfully it went into the back of the net.
“You have to give Derry great credit because they defended very well. They came with a game plan and they were tight and compact so it was up to us to break them down. You could see we were a bit rusty tonight as well but we’ll get that together over the next couple of weeks. I’m sure all teams will be the same but it’s three points on the first game of the season so we’re off to a flyer,” said the 31-year-old.
As an added extra, the goal came on what was Massey’s 200th league start for the club.
“It’s great,” he smiled.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d play 200 league games for this club. It’s a great honour and I’m extremely proud of that.”
Of more importance to the left back, however, was a winning start to the season.
“We have our targets and our goals and to get a good start in the league this year was part of that.
“It’s only one game in but there will be others coming thick and fast.”
Massey is set to come under pressure this season for his place in the side following the arrival of Irish U-21 left back Darragh Leahy from Bohemians but he said the same is the case for players throughout the team.
“There’s competition all over the park to be fair.
“Darragh is a great young player who has come in so I know if I’m not at my best then he’ll step in but to be fair it’s like that all over the pitch. We could put out two 11s to be fair and still do well in the league so it’s up to the first 11 to keep the jersey.”
After starting with a win, Massey now hopes Dundalk can make it two in-a-row by following it up with victory away to Shelbourne on Friday night.
“Tolka Park is a great stadium to play in and the atmosphere is always brilliant. There’ll be that bit of extra spice to the game with it being their first home game in a number of years but we’ll look forward to it and hopefully we’ll do well,” he said.