Given the fact that Dundalk were a penalty shoot-out away from a domestic clean sweep in the season just ended, it’s fair to say that drastic surgery is far from needed when it comes to the squad for next season.
That said, no club can afford to stand still and already Vinny Perth has been active in the transfer market bringing in midfielders Greg Sloggett and Will Patching to try and address some of the issues the club experienced at times this year.
While Sloggett is more than capable of playing alongside Chris Shields, he can also replace the 28-year-old when he is missing. Of the four league matches Dundalk lost last season, it was perhaps no coincidence that Shields was missing for three of them while his absence was also sorely felt in the recent FAI Cup final defeat to Shamrock Rovers when, not for the first time this season, centre half Sean Hoare was forced into a defensive midfield role.
With more business expected at Oriel Park before the start of next season, we decided look at what Dundalk might need in the transfer market between now and the opening night.
With Dean Jarvis seemingly on his way out of Oriel Park, cover/competition is needed for Dane Massey. This is something that is on the club’s radar with Shane Griffin and Darragh Leahy linked with Oriel Park in recent weeks. Options abroad in this area are also understood to be under consideration at present.
Goals from central midfield
While no one could be expected to equal Richie Towell’s return of 29 goals from midfield from 2015, the goals from this area really dried up in 2019. Admittedly, most of the midfielders had an injury problem at one stage or another but the fact that the leading midfield goalscorer had just three goals was a poor return. This was a figure achieved by Sean Murray, who despite a bright start has failed to find the back of the net since scoring the opener away to Derry City on March 15th, and Jamie McGrath, whose third goal only arrived in the season-ending 6-0 win over Linfield in the Unite the Union Champions Cup. While all bar Chris Shields – who failed to find the net this year – had lengthy spells out through injury those returns as well as just two apiece for Patrick McEleney and the since departed Robbie Benson is a poor return for a side who have so much possession and often dictate games. Thankfully in the season just gone, goals from wide areas from the likes of Michael Duffy and Daniel Kelly made up for this somewhat.
While Dundalk will be hoping Will Patching can provide a bit of spark from central midfield, the club will be anxious to see more supply across the board from this area. While Patrick Hoban was criticised at times for his scoring return last season, his return of 52 goals in his first two seasons back at the club is a decent return to build up a picture of where his goals have come from. While 13 of those goals were assisted by Michael Duffy, the supply to Dundalk’s chief marksman from elsewhere has been found wanting. Indeed, the next on the list when it comes to assists for Hoban over the past two seasons is right back Sean Gannon and Dylan Connolly (both with five), with the latter having departed before the start of last season. It is somewhat worrying that Krisztián Adorján, who only played half a season with the club in 2018, leads the way when it comes to assists for Hoban from central midfield with two. Others such as Robbie Benson, Patrick McEleney, Sean Murray and Jordan Flores all just assisted once while there were none from the likes of John Mountney, Jamie McGrath and Chris Shields – an amazing stat when you consider Gary Rogers even has one for him in that spell. While Daniel Kelly did register two assists for Hoban, both were from penalties being won rather than from open play. Duffy aside, Hoban was Dundalk’s most creative player last season in terms of assists but supplying the striker could be massive in terms of kicking on next season.
More attacking options
While Hoban and Georgie Kelly scored a combined 34 goals between them in all competitions last season and the debate over who should start each week rages, the reality is they offer similar qualities. There’s nothing wrong with those qualities but more of a plan B is needed, particularly when it comes to Europe. A striker with real pace would really shake things up at Oriel Park while Perth is also known to be looking at similar options in the wide areas. Republic of Ireland U-21 star Zach Elbouzedi is one player definitely on the club’s radar but he is also expected to have interest from the UK and Shamrock Rovers. Either way adding more pace in the top area of the field could be crucial in taking Dundalk to the next level.
Better set piece delivery
While Dundalk scored more goals from headers than any other side last season, too often the delivery of set pieces was found wanting. While Michael Duffy and Sean Murray are both capable of delivering good corners and free kicks into the box, quite often last season crosses were either overhit or failed to beat the first man at the near post. Dundalk get away with it because they win so many frees and corners but adding a player to the side who can deliver the ball in the manner in which Darren Meenan used to do could bring about far more goals for the club given their obvious threat from such situations.