Sunday, 30 October 2016

28/10/16 Review: Dundalk vs Galway United

Dundalk 4-1 Galway United (Irish Premier League)
Oriel Park

And so it begins! With the much anticipated Ground-hopping team-up between Pint of Football and Partizan Bristle finally here, day one of four would start with us waking up in Stoke-on-Trent, driving to Birmingham, flying to Dublin and then bussing it to Dundalk in search of Oriel Park.

Lads, lads, lads on tour!
Having previously smashed out a two-day trip to Stafford Rangers and Aggborough, and then observed a three-day tour of the Western League at Cribbs, Welton and Hengrove, this time around we were going to go one day further and attempt four games, in four days, in four countries! The first, in the Republic of Ireland, was admittedly the one that I was personally most looking forward to. Oriel Park, home of the Lilywhites, is a ground that I had my eye on for a while and with the chances of a trip to see them in Europa League action off the table (because of them playing their European games away from Dundalk) a domestic fixture would just have to do. It is worth noting at this point that when we planned the trip, we were not aware that this would be the last fixture of the League campaign for the two sides in action.

Dundalk have not slipped up too much so far this season
By the time it came to the day of the fixture, Dundalk had already secured a third League title in a row and tonight's game would actually turn out to be the best opportunity to see a very rocking Oriel Park. With success in Europe this season, an FAI Cup final to look forward to and another Trophy making it's way to Dundalk, tonight was going to be a proper Irish party atmosphere and we could not wait to get involved and see if the champs could give their fans a performance to fit the season they have so far sustained.

The whole town looked to be out for a party tonight
Upon entering Oriel Park we were instantly hit by a wall of people, which started by the entrance and formed a clockwise formation around the ground, into the seating and over to behind the opposite goal. Over 3,000 had crammed themselves in for this Friday night fixture against Galway United- who also brought 20 of their own loyal fans. Tonight's away side, nicknamed the Tribesmen, were here for a fixture that did not really have much baring on them. Sitting in a far from glamorous 9th place in the League, today's result would not take them any lower in the standings, and a victory would only be able to see them climb to 8th if other results went their way. Nevertheless, I do imagine that deep down Galway would be more than satisfied if they could at least give the Champs a close game and do as much as they could to prevent a penultimate match pummelling.
Here we go!
From the first minute the atmosphere was nothing short of electric. Everywhere we turned there was happy Dundalk fans smiling from ear to ear, youngsters kitted-up ready to cheer on their heroes and club oldies wrapped up in Lilywhites scarves who watched on with the familiar look of pride for what is arguably the most successful Irish club ever. With a star-studded line-up including one of the League's Top Scorers, David McMillan, as well as ex-Rangers midfielder Dean Shiels and wing wizard Daryl Horgan- who is tipped to be the Player of the Year- you could see why there was a buzz in the air both at home and across Europe for a team that is developing a constantly growing reputation.
Dundalk looking to take an early lead- a familiar sight for the locals
Kicking off in white and black, Dundalk pressed hard from the off and it did not take long for the chances, like the weather, to start raining down on the field and within 12 minutes the home side had already rattled the bar through McMillan, but only after Sava had denied the opposition scoring an early goal themselves. I had stuck my neck out and predicted that the champions would record an almighty 4-0 win at the end of the season, and this seemed likely to come true when Northern Ireland international Dean Shiels scored the opener before the 15-minute mark with a deft finish following a slick attack from Dundalk. Dundalk 1-0 Galway. The mass of fans went into fits of celebration and the atmosphere was raised again in a season that just keeps on getting better.

This is what we came for
They often say that to have success, you need the perfect formula of skill, passion and fortune, and the second Dundalk goal certainly proved that. With the ball in his feet from some way out, Paddy Barrett found himself some space and punted the ball into the mix with the optimism of finding the net. United's keeper seemed to collect the ball, but then unfortunately juggled it between his gloves before eventually releasing it into his own goal. It went down as a Barrett goal, but I would have said it was a rain-assisted OG. Dundalk 2-0 Galway. By this point Horgan was running the show for Dundalk and both myself and Tom stated that surely Dundalk will struggle to hold on to him when he is putting in displays like this one- especially if he's been playing 3 games a week at that pace!
With half-an-hour approaching there was to be a third goal in the game, and it would be for the Champs again. A good save from Winn left Benson with an easy finish, unfortunately for him it was ruled out for offside. This wouldn't stop the rampage though, and before half-time it would prove to be Shiels who'd score the finest goal of the game. He started off the move through the centre, before playing a perfect one-two with Benson which landed back in his feet and therefore allowed him to dink a perfect chip over the out-rushing Winn. Dundalk 3-0 Galway. In fairness to Galway they were showing some decent passages of play themselves but on a night that was written in the stars for Dundalk there was only going to be one result. Half-time blew with the home-side well ahead, which meant only one thing. Time for a mooch to the bar.

After a bit of Bagpipe antics
Once we had finished ploughing our way through masses of folk into the ground's innards, only to be hit by further people. With a pessimistic view on getting past tens of thirsty Irishmen to squeeze in a half-time pint, we instead headed back out to the ground after a key moment of the evening. "I've just elbowed a small child in the face, maybe we should leave" said Tom, as we scurried out. As the second-half started, Galway came out with a fair amount of fight, which was admiral considering the conditions. The first 10 were pretty end-to-end and the action was as good as the opening half, and with a goal certain to come at some point it would be Ryan Connolly for the visitors who would tap home a rebound after his initial shot was parried by Gabriel Sava. Dundalk 3-1 Galway.

Did it stop the singing from the stands? What do you think?
Despite this minor blemish on an otherwise perfect night for the home side, the party was edging closer and closer for the champs and we even managed to spot one fan walking out with a beer which he offered to share with a steward. A swig was taken from said steward before he dished out a warning about drinking in the grounds. Classic! Back on the pitch, the clock was running down and the feel of a fourth goal was building for Dundalk. As kids lined up along the touchline ready for the final whistle to blow, the inevitable pitch invasion would be instant after the referee ended the match. However, this was not the case and the ref would be unable to even end the game after an injury-time fourth goal was scored by the home-side. Ciaran Kilduff was the man to spark the riot as he ran clear and just about snuck the ball past Winn. Dundalk 4-1 Galway.

And that, as they say, was that. The scenes were phenomenal as the whole ground was flooded with the cheers of Dundalk-folk who were ready to celebrate another notch in the history books. As the fans celebrated we used the opportunity to sneak into the bar and grab a pint before we were eventually joined by the rest of the party. The bar was a full-on old-style Irish pub with so much memorabilia covering the walls. Alongside trying my first ever Guinness, I then also swigged some Champagne directly out of a bottle that was being shared with other fans- what a time to be alive!

Thank you Dundalk- a top night!
Needless to say that with a trip to Belfast the following day to see Cliftonville (Blog to follow tomorrow) on day two of our venture, we were making the most of it and we drank the night away like a couple of locals. I mean, we definitely stuck out like a sore thumb when it came to belting out the Irish tunes, but that didn't make a blind bit of difference amongst the friendliest of environments. Spot on!


  1. Brilliant reading..Come back to Oriel Park again lads..

    1. Thanks Mary, glad you enjoyed.... we had a blast! I'm sure I'll be back at some point, one of by favourite grounds without a doubt!

  2. Brilliant reading lads.Come back to Oriel Park again.