Hoddles help to aid Cookes Drogs
With the Super Hoops marching on in Europe, attention falls this evening on the North East Derby at Oriel Park in the FAI Cup. Dundalk and their noisy fans will lay claim to being the big team in the league but tonight see’s Ian Foster’s men looking to win another cup and challenge Rovers as they did in the 1980’s. However in the Drogs Dugout a helping hand from another 80’s legend, Glenn Hoddle, may just give Mick Cooke’s side the edge.
Having clashed in the League (77), League Cup (26), Shield (12), Leinster Cup (11), City Cup (4), President’s Cup (3) and Tyler Cup (1), this will be the ninth meeting in the FAI Cup (sixth tie).
Drogheda United FC manager Cooke is looking forward to “the real derby” for the fourth time from the dugout having experienced it in his playing days with the Boynesiders. Cooke, who spent time at Drogheda in the 1970s, was speaking to LMFM ahead this weekend’s Louth Derby against Dundalk, who he is well used to tackling after spending eight years as manager of Monaghan United.
His only previous FAI Cup encounter with the Lilywhites ended in a 7-1 defeat for Monaghan in 2005, though just last August he knocked Ian Foster’s side out at the semi-final stage of the League Cup. And after enjoying the three Louth Derbies so far this year following his switch to Drogheda in February, Cooke is looking forward to another “classic encounter”. “The only derby Monaghan had was Dundalk coming and they were great nights,” Cooke told LMFM. “But this is the real derby. I was involved in it as a player and now as a manager. They’re wonderful nights and the three games we’ve had already have been a great spectacle for football.
“The three games between us this year have been fantastic games,” the 60-year-old, who celebrated his birthday last Sunday week, added. “You expect local derbies to be a bit over the top but I think the three games have been classic football games. I think the teams have wanted to win the games more than be beaten, and I think that certainly showed last Friday week, where it was probably the best game of the season so far. I think (the cup game) will be a bit different; obviously, it’s a once-off game. The cup always brings a different variety of football to it. I imagine both teams will be more cautious, obviously there’s a quarter-final place at stake and I’m sure Dundalk will treat it more cautiously as well. But I think it will be a good game.”
Cooke will be without ex-Dundalk youngster Colly O’Brien, Peter McMahon, who trained at Oriel Park during the summer, and Jack Flynn. However, captain Dave Rogers, who was a Lilywhite for part of the 2009 season, will be available as his automatic suspension, which follows his red card against Saint Patrick’s Athletic last Friday, will apply in the next league fixture. Rogers scored from the spot in the last Louth Derby on 12 August. But Cooke insisted: “Irrespective of who you have on the park, it will be 11 against 11, so it’s up to the 11 that take the field on the night to do the job. I think my players will perform to the best of their ability, and if the games are half as good as the previous three, it certainly will be another classic encounter.”
Cooke also believes that should his side pass the challenge of Dundalk that they can go all the way, despite sitting above only Galway United in the Premier Division. “Of course they can,” he said when asked if one of the league’s lower lights can achieve cup glory. “Certainly there is always a surprise team every year in the cup, even in England where you see the likes of the Brightons were getting to cup finals. There’s no reason why we can’t get to the cup final. But, as I say, next Friday will be big. It’s a local derby which brings more excitement to the cup, and if we can perform the way we have done – apart from last Friday night of course – we will be a match for Dundalk and hopefully we can go through to the quarter-finals.”
Drogheda’s three-match unbeaten run came to a crashing halt last weekend when they fell to a 4-0 defeat by St. Pat’s at Richmond Park, with Cooke unhappy at how his players’ heads dropped after a second-minute strike from ex-Dundalk winger Derek Doyle. “I think in particular the last five games, we have been excellent in our performances,” he said. “You’re always worried about when the comedown will happen, and unfortunately it happened on Friday. To concede the goal after two minutes, I think the heads just dropped far too quickly for my liking and it was an uphill battle after that.” But, overall, he is happy with how his side have picked up in recent weeks.
“I felt when I took the job originally, people questioned my sanity with the position Drogheda were in,” he said. “But I felt once I got to the transfer window within distance of the teams in the lower half of the league I would be quite comfortable. I think the players that I have brought in have showed that we’re a capable match for any team now. Fortunately, we were ahead of Galway. My aim now is obviously to try to catch UCD. But obviously first and foremost is next Friday’s game against Dundalk.” One of his new recruits that has caught the eye is midfielder Lee Lynch, who got his first taste of the Louth Derby earlier this month
“He was released by West Bromwich Albion and went to play in the Glenn Hoddle Academy in Spain,” Cooke explained on how he captured the 19-year-old. “A friend of mine down there saw him playing and asked me would I be interested, so I took him along, he trained for a week and on the back of that I signed him. I think he has been a breath of fresh air to the team and his performances have shown so far that I think he’s capable of probably going back across the water. I’d be hopeful of keeping him now until the end of the season.”
Dundalk FC central defender Colin Hawkins has admitted that his side have suffered a “big blow” to their top-four aspirations after their fourth successive draw as they were held at home by Bray Wanderers on Friday evening. The 34-year-old, who got through 90 minutes for the first time since a 2-2 draw at Shamrock Rovers on 21 June, is happy that the Lilywhites’ have put together a six-match unbeaten run, but he admitted that five draws in that sequence was “getting them nowhere” as they lost further ground on Saint Patrick’s Athletic. And Hawkins is looking forward to putting the league to one side next weekend as he targets a very first FAI Cup medal come November
“I wouldn’t write off anything because we’ve still got to play everyone once,” Colin told dundalkfc.com after Friday’s match when asked if fourth was now out of reach. “We still have a whole series of games and we have the players – players are coming back from injury now – so we can go on a run. We’re always saying it. We’re drawing too many games. One point is no good to you – you’re better off losing the odd game and winning one. We’re drawing every game and one point gets you nowhere. We’re just pretty much standing still in the league, and we’re better than that. We have just got to kick on as a group now and we have got to go into the last series and pick up as many points as we can, and see how high it can take us. The last few games have been a big blow for us and our target.
“We had to get three points,” he added, as he reflected on what might have been after Dundalk spurned a number of first-half openings against the Seagulls. “It’s a massive blow to us. The last two games, Drogheda and Bray, you should be really picking up six points against teams below us. We dominated the game. The first half, we were excellent I thought. The second half, we dropped off them a little bit. Overall, I thought we deserved the win, but two sloppy goals, from two throw-ins, it’s not good enough. (Their first goal) was an absolute killer, a sucker-punch. There are ten seconds left – we have got to see the game out. We have got to be more professional than that. Carl (McHugh) did well and put the ball out of play, and then we were a little bit sloppy in possession, a simple cross in and Danny O’Connor flicked it on.
“I think it’s probably the second chance they had in the whole first half, so to come in 1-1, we were gutted,” the Galway-born defender continued. “We started the second half and went at them again and had chances. We should have been three or four up (at half-time); Nathan (Murphy) had a great chance, Quigs (Mark Quigley) had a great chance that he’d normally put away and Griff (Mark Griffin). We have got to take those chances. But then, we have got to be more professional at the back and stop conceding sloppy goals. It has been a theme for the whole season. It has got to stop quickly.” On a personal note for Hawkins, it was a welcome relief to get through the game, after his return in Derry on 22 July lasted just 15 minutes. “I’m delighted to be back out on the pitch,” he said. “I have been very, very frustrated watching in the stand.
“It’s good to be back out there,” the four-time Premier Division winner added. “I have only a couple of days’ training under my belt, so it was a little bit sluggish and the sharpness isn’t there, but I’ll come on for this 90 minutes and roll into next Friday, which is our season, pretty much, up in Drogheda. It’s a massive, massive game. It will be built up all week and we’ve just got to prepare properly and dust ourselves down and go again. It’s a massive opportunity for us in the cup and we have got to be right for it.” Commenting on the six-match unbeaten run, Colin said: “It’s good because it shows that there is no team better than us. There is nobody out there that plays us off the park. A lot of those draws are games that we definitely should have won – they’re not games we were lucky to get a point in. But we have got to turn those one points into three points qu
“(Drogheda) is a totally different ball game,” he added. “A cup game, anything can happen, and a Louth Derby, it’s going to be a great atmosphere. Hopefully, we get a big following up there. We’ll be well up for it because we’ve always said that we’re a cup team, because on our day we know we can beat anybody in the country. But we have got to show it. It’s not going to be a pretty game. It’s going to be helter-skelter. It’s going to be a tough game, so we have got to be right for that and get focussed all week. I’m sure Darius (Kierans) and the Gaffer will work hard with us all week and we’ll go up there with a game plan. We have got to come out of there in the next round of the cup.” Having looked defensively sound since the introduction of Carl McHugh last month, Dundalk have now shipped four goals in two games, something which understandably concerns Hawkins.
“Everyone keeps pointing out that we’re an attacking side,” Colin said, “which we are. But it’s not the back four, it’s not the ‘keeper, it’s the whole team. We have got to have this mentality of not conceding goals. The first half (against Bray), we should have been three or four up and then the last second we concede a terrible goal. You’ll go nowhere in the game if we keep doing that. We have got to learn from it and we have got to learn from it quickly.” Hawkins did, however, give Bray credit. “They worked really hard,” he said. “They came with a game plan, had pretty much one up front and made it difficult for us. But I thought we moved the ball superbly well, we played out from the back and I’m sure it was lovely to watch. I’m sure the fans enjoyed the first half, bar the last second, where it’s killed us. We’ve come in, instead of being 1-0 and being confident going into the second half, it knocked us on our heels a little bit. But, hopefully, we’ll keep trying to play attractive football and the fans will enjoy watching it.”
Prediction- Dundalk 3 Drogs 2