By Craig O’Sullivan (@CraigOSul1)
Dundalk welcome Waterford to Oriel Park Monday in the EA Sports Cup quarter final. In what will be the first competitive fixture between the sides since Dundalk ran out 2-0 winners over Waterford at the RSC back in late 2012.
A game that sent both clubs in opposite directions. If the result had gone the other way it would raise the question as to where Dundalk would be today.
Dundalk went on to finish runners up in the premier division the following season and from there went on to win the league three years in row. Whereas Waterford went on to not even challenge for the first division title or promotion over the following years.
The first division club went on to have some big struggles which led to fears it could be the end of the road for the club.
Fortunately, the tables turned for Waterford late last year and Lee Power was the club’s saviour. Power has completely transformed the club on all fronts. Power is also the owner and chairman of English football league side Swindon Town.
Waterford have seen some huge changes at the club. Where fans have saw big signings as such Estonia international Sander Puri, native Kenny Browne transferred to his local club from runaway premier division leaders Cork City and David McDaid transferred from Cliftonville in the Northern Ireland league.
Waterford convinced native Waterford man and former player Alan Reynolds to return to the club as head coach from Cork City, where he was first team coach. Highly successful league of Ireland manager Pat Fenlon took a new step in his career by becoming Waterford’s director of football.
Since the sides met four and a half years ago things certainly went the complete opposite way for each club. Waterford went on to have probably the two worst years in the clubs 87-year history – 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Last season Dundalk made history by becoming the first Irish club to gain points in the group stages of a European club competition. The Louth men came agonisingly close to qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition but just fell short.
Dundalk’s league season is currently in tatters with the Louth side already 12 points behind runaway leaders Cork. So, the Louth side will be expected to take this competition seriously to continue their trail of success and as it’s the clubs best chance of winning silverware this season. As the ‘Town’ are just two wins away from a place in the final. The Louth men suffered a shock loss on Friday last when Galway struck late to come away with a 2-1 victory over the champions.
Dundalk lost some big players in the offseason with star man Daryl Horgan along with defender Andy Boyle moving to second tier side in England, Preston on free transfers.
Dubliner and a keen man in the Dundalk midfield, Roman Finn returned to former club Shamrock Rovers. Dundalk have brought in Michael Duffy from Celtic and Conor Clifford former Chelsea youth as replacements. Dundalk are having problems to find a consistent level of performances but Patrick McEleney has caught the eye of many with some stellar performances.
Dundalk received a bye into the second round where they were drawn at home to first division Dublin side UCD. In a game where UCD came very close to pulling off a big upset, the premier division champions just got over the line winning in the contest after penalty shootout.
The game finished 1-1 after 90 minutes with Dundalk trailing for a lot of the game but they managed to equalise and then go on and win 7-6 on penalties. Dundalk will be hoping to avoid the same problems as the last round and certainly won’t be taking the game for granted.
Waterford go into the game the form team having increased their unbeaten run to 11 games. Waterford drew with UCD on Friday last, ending run of six consecutive wins at home, although it increased the clubs unbeaten run at home to seven games. Waterford’s priority this year is promotion with any cup run a bonus, but they’ll see this as a huge opportunity. As they’re just a win away from the semi-finals. In the fans eyes they’ll be travelling to Louth on the May bank holiday Monday looking for revenge and a consolation prize for the playoff loss in 2012.
Injury hit Waterford have found it very comfortable in the competition thus far this season. Starting the competition with a 5-0 away to Wexford, 17-year-old, Owen Wall grabbed all the post-match attention. The youngster came off the bench to score twice and hit the woodwork twice, one of which subsequently left David McDaid with an open goal to rebound the ball into the net. Waterford came through the second round as 2-0 winners over promotion rivals Cobh Ramblers. Waterford are yet to concede a goal in the competition.
Dundalk will be looking at this fixture as an ideal one to help get their season back on track but it will be far from easy. Dundalk face Shamrock Rovers in a big game days after the cup tie so they may have one eye on that fixture. Likewise, Waterford face Dublin opposition days after the cup tie and with some many injuries in the Waterford camp, Waterford are expected to make several changes. Dean O’Halloran was stretched off against UCD and Anthony McAlevey also came off injured. They’re added to the injury list which has three regular starters on it before they got injured.
Last 7 Previous Meetings Competitively
2012 – Waterford 0-2 Dundalk (Playoff)
Dundalk 2-2 Waterford (Playoff)
2010 – Waterford 1-2 Dundalk (EA Sports Cup)
2008 – Waterford 0-1 Dundalk
Dundalk 2-1 Waterford
Waterford 1-0 Dundalk
Dundalk 1-0 Waterford
Galway 2-1 Dundalk
Dundalk 2-0 Bohemians
Dundalk 1-1 UCD (Dundalk won 7-6 on penalties – EA Sports Cup)
Dundalk 1-3 Bray Wanderers
Finn Harps 0-2 Dundalk
Top Scorers (League & EA Sports Cup)
David McMillan – 6 goals
Patrick McEleney – 4 goals
Ciaran Kilduff & Michael Duffy – 3 goals
Patrick McEleney – The Derry native has that spark and that game changing ability where he can change a game on its head within an instance. Patrick has been a keen player for Dundalk since signing and he has been their standout player this season.
Michael Duffy – The former Derry City and Celtic man is one of Dundalks newest recruits joining from Celtic in the off season. Duffy has that moment of brilliance in his ability and he has caused some teams a lot of problems this year.
David McMillan – In recent years McMillan has been Dundalk’s main striker and he has certainly shown that by becoming their most dangerous player in front of goal. McMillan was once again on the scoresheet in Dundalk’s recent loss to Galway.
Waterford 1-1 UCD
Cabinteely 0-0 Waterford
Waterford 2-0 Cobh (EA Sports Cup)
Waterford 2-1 Athlone
Waterford 2-1 Cobh Ramblers
Top Scorers (League & EA Sports Cup)
David McDaid – 6 goals
Mark O’Sullivan – 4 goals
Patrick McClean/Owen Wall – 2 goals
Patrick McClean – The Derry native and former Derry City man joined Waterford in the offseason from Derry. McClean has quickly made a name for himself at Waterford and thus becoming a key cog in the Waterford team as well as becoming a fan favourite. The fearless defender shows great passion in his performances, bit only has McClean being solid as a rock in the heart of the Waterford defence he has also chip in with a couple of goals, the most important one coming when he scored a late winner in the league game against Cobh.
David McDaid – A big coup in the off season for Waterford when McDaid signed from Cliftonville. McDaid quickly found his feet and despite suffering a minor setback with a small injury and a suspension McDaid has gone on to score 7 goals in all competitions, thus becoming Waterford’s top scorer.
Derek Daly – Dubliner Daly signed for Waterford from football league outfit in England, Chesterfield Town. After taking time to settle, Daly quickly became a key player in the Waterford team. Daly has put shifts in at left back and left winger, thus causing some problems down the left side of the plank.
Injured: Sean Gannon and Robbie Benson
Doubtful: Shane Grimes
Injured: Sander Puri, Ian Mcloughlin, Kenny Browne, Dean O’Halloran and Jake Evans
Doubtful: Anthony McAlevey
Referee: Neil Doyle
Assistants: Wayne McDonnell & Stephen Parnell
Fourth Official: Alan Carey
Betting (Paddy Power)
Dundalk 2-1 Waterford