WIN SHOWS OUR PROFESSIONALISM – MCELENEY.Patrick McEleney has praised the professionalism of the Dundalk squad, after their 1-0 win over St Patrick’s Athletic strengthened their grip on the SSE Airtricity League title race.
The Lilywhites made eight changes to the side that drew at home to Qarabag in the UEFA Champions League qualifier on Wednesday night, but Vinny Perth’s men dominated the game and could have won by more than John Mountney’s 52nd minute goal.
“It was a huge win,” said McEleney. “Obviously it’s never easy going down there and it was a massive goal at the start of the second half from John, so we’re delighted.”
“As the first half went on, we were getting a stranglehold on the game. We knew if we came out in the second half and gave it a bash early doors, we might shock them a bit. I think the first 10 minutes of the second half we were excellent and that was the period that we got our goal.”
McEleney was one of three Dundalk players to retain their place from the Qarabag game – Rogers and Chris Shields were the other two – and Dundalk fielded a new-look back four, with Cameron Dummigan making his league debut at right back.
But you wouldn’t have known it as, after St Pat’s edged the opening exchanges without troubling Gary Rogers, the Lilywhites took control of the game and showed the depth of the squad in every position.
“I think to be at Dundalk, you have to be a good player, so I think everybody is on a par. Everybody is that good a professional that when they are called upon, they are ready,” said McEleney.
“You see Cammy Dummigan today, he was unbelievable in the game I thought. Everybody’s ready because we’re such good pros, so it’s great that we can change it and do what we done.”
All the focus in the camp since Wednesday’s dramatic draw with the Azerbaijani champions has been of the return to league action and the trip to Inchicore, where Dundalk lost earlier in the season.
But when the town is abuzz with Champions League fever and there’s a trip to Baku just days away, how difficult is it to switch off from European competition and focus on the bread and butter?
“It is tough to do,” said McEleney, “but I think the fact that we’ve been there before – nine of us were here in 2016 – you can remind people of what’s needed to be able to switch from a big European game that everybody is looking forward to, to a game like this Pat’s game, where you might take your eye of the ball a wee bit.
“But I think we have too many big characters and too many people that have been there and done it to switch off, so that’s credit to everybody really.”
The Lilywhites are back in training today before flying to Baku tomorrow morning ahead of their visit to the Dalga Arena for the return leg with Qarabag.
The Azerbaijani Champions are favourites to progress but, after Pat Hoban’s late equaliser brought them right back in the tie, Vinny Perth’s charges will know they have a chance and, after extending their unbeaten run to 20 games in all competitions at Richmond Park, McEleney says the Lilywhites will go over there confident.
“You have to be I think. We knew after the Bohs game where we started our run, we knew we had to go on a big run to get ourselves up the table and then obviously get ourselves going well going into Europe,” he said.
“I think the other night, Pat has got us a huge goal and we’re well in the tie, so we’ll go over there now and give it a right go. We’ll look forward to it.”