They have been at it all season in Europe, but on match day two of the Europa League little old Dundalk FC from Ireland – a crowd of part timers – created a bit of history.
They became the first Irish side to win a European group game, beating Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0 in the Tallaght stadium thanks to another Ciaran Kilduff goal.
Dundalk did fantastically well on matchday one, coming from behind to draw one all with with Dutch side AZ Alkmaar, again thanks to a Ciaran Kilduff goal.
But the win over Maccabi Tel Aviv definitely trumps that, and it will arguably go down as one of the greatest triumphs to date for Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny.
Dundalk certainly weren’t favourites coming in to the game. Maccabi have players such as ex-West Ham, Liverpool, and Chelsea player Yossi Benayoun, and ex-Chelsea defender Tal Ben Haim, but that didn’t stop the home side from dominating possession.
At times they showed those watching around Europe that there are players of high quality in the League of Ireland, and when you come to play one of our teams on Irish soil you are not in for an easy night.
Dundalk controlled the tempo of the game and Maccabi were reduced to pot shots from outside the area. Whenever they did manage to get in to the Dundalk box, the defence and goalkeeper were up for anything Maccabi threw at them.
To say I was a little bit jealous watching the Dundalk fans rocking the Tallaght stadium would be a bit of an under statement. As a football fan, watching your team play in Europe is the pinnacle of club football.
The team assembled by Stephen Kenny is something special. He is getting the most out of his players, and more importantly the players want to play for their manager.
Dundalk’s quality (Dundalk currently sit top of the League of Ireland table, four points ahead of second placed Cork City) is forcing managers around the League of Ireland to have a look at themselves and evaluate what they are doing.
They have managed to drag the quality of the teams around them up a notch, and hopefully over the next few years fans will see that improvement both on the pitch and off it as League of Ireland teams regularly qualify for the groups stages of both of Europe’s top club competitions.
With Zenit St Petersburg next up for Dundalk, I don’t see them fearing the Russian giants. They have already pulled off two shocks in the competition, and for them another shock win will be a feather in the hat of both Kenny and the players.
It’s been a marvellous few years for Kenny after Shamrock Rovers, who incidentally play their home games at the Tallaght stadium, sacked Kenny.
With all the turmoil they are currently going through, I have no doubt in my mind every one of them would love to have him back at the club.
Hopefully Dundalk can keep pushing forward and hold on to Kenny, otherwise all his hard work could be undone by a manager that wants to change things too quickly at Oriel Park and Dundalk will slump back to mid table mediocrity.
Here’s to you Stephen Kenny, Dundalk FC, and all their fans for doing the league so proud. Let’s hope for another historic night on the 20th October!