DFC | Lilywhites captain O’Donnell refusing to panic despite nine-point gap

Dundalk FC head to Galway United on Friday night

Dundalk FC midfielder Stephen O’Donnell in action against Bohemians last week. PICTURE: CIARAN CULLIGAN

The first series of games in the SSE Airtricity League comes to an end on Friday night when Dundalk FC make the journey west to play struggling Galway United at Eamonn Deacy Park.

The reigning champions sit nine points adrift of leaders Cork City, who have set a blistering pace with 10 wins from their games, but Lilywhites skipper Stephen O’Donnell said that there was no need to hit the panic button.

“There’s 33 games to play and there’s only 10 gone,” O’Donnell told Dundalk Sport. “We’ve seen in the past that a lot can happen, especially when Europe comes around. We just need to keep tipping away.”

Stephen Kenny’s side have won seven and lost three of their opening 10 games. O’Donnell feels that is a reasonable return when the winter upheaval at the club, coupled with some injuries to key players, is taken into account.

“If everybody was being realistic then they would say they knew it was going to take some time for us to get going,” he remarked.
“There was a big transition in the squad and it wasn’t just going to be like for like. When you throw in all of the injuries we’ve had aswell then it wasn’t going to be plain sailing.
“You obviously don’t want to lose three of your first 10 but if we had drawn a couple of games then people would be saying it’s a decent start.
“I don’t think it’s disastrous by any means,” he added. “We just need to get ourselves right and hopefully go on a little run.”

Robbie Benson, Sean Gannon and Shane Grimes remain on the injured list but Dundalk FC’s matchday squad looked very strong against Bohemians and O’Donnell said that in itself was reason for optimism.

“The main thing last week was getting back to winning ways against Bohemians after the debacle against Bray. We did that but there’s plenty of room for improvement,” he said.
“We’ve been trying to get bodies back on the training pitch to become cohesive and try and get to know everybody’s game.
“You can’t underestimate the importance of training. It’s very hard if you’ve only done a light session the day before a game to try and play at your best.
“The more players we have out on the training field then the more everybody gets used to each other and you get a bit of continuity.
“There’s a massive onus on the players who have been here to tailor our games for the new lads who have come in and they have to adapt their game for coming in here,” he added.
“It works both ways and hopefully we are starting to get that understanding now. From here on in we will hopefully get stronger.”

The win over Bohemians marked O’Donnell’s first league start since the opening night of the season. A niggling thigh injury kept him sidelined for almost two months but he said he is feeling good and expects to get better with each passing week.

“I feel good,” he said. “The week before last was my first full week of training and hopefully I’ll get stronger and sharper as the games go by.
“I tried to come back the day before we played Limerick here a few weeks back but there was still a little tear in my quad.
“I probably thought I’d be back a bit earlier than what I was but I just wasn’t ready.”
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