Manager: Stephen Kenny
Stadium: Oriel Park
Highest attendance this season: 3,563 (vs. Cork City, March 9th)
Highest league goalscorer: Patrick Hoban (19)
Mid-season position: 2nd
How we thought they would do
Dundalk were to finish as runners-up to Cork City for the second year running, so said the majority of the extratime.ie staff in their predictions before the season had even kicked-off back in February.
How they have really done
Just that – although unlike this time last year, Dundalk are hot on the coat-tails of Cork and are just one point behind the Leesiders with a far superior goal difference coming into the sides' third league meeting of the campaign this Friday at Oriel Park, where the Lilywhites remain undefeated in 2018.
Moment of the season so far
Dundalk’s two defeats at the hands of Cork turned out to be what ultimately decided the destination of the SSE Airtricity League trophy last season, so a win over their title rivals in which Patrick Hoban scored the decisive goal via Mark McNulty’s horrendous blunder, in front of what was the biggest crowd at Oriel Park so far this year, has been the standout moment for Stephen Kenny’s side .
Star player: Michael Duffy
Hoban may be the league’s top scorer but that feat simply wouldn’t have been possible without the contribution of wing wizard Michael Duffy, who was surely Dundalk’s most influential player throughout the first half of the campaign. Duffy himself has scored nine goals in the league as well as being credited with 15 assists – quite the stat when you consider he’s already bettered his overall goals tally from last season and is also just one assist away from matching the 16 he got in 2017.
Surprise star player: Sean Hoare
Duffy’s sensational form saw him pick up the Soccer Writers’ Association Player of the Month award for April and the gong went to another Dundalk player in May – Sean Hoare, who’s really had to bide his time since signing for the club back in December 2016. The former St Patrick’s Athletic defender has been truly phenomenal at right-back in the absence of the injured Sean Gannon. A man-of-the-match performance in a crucial 2-0 win over Bohemians at Dalymount Park in May, in which Hoare both set up and scored a goal has so far been the best example of his importance to the side.
Young player: Daniel Cleary
Once named in Liverpool’s squad for the Europa League, there was never much doubt about the quality of Daniel Cleary, who has excellently filled the massive void at centre-half left by Niclas Vemmelund. However, few would have expected Cleary to make such an immediate impact at Dundalk, especially after being reportedly snubbed by Shamrock Rovers in pre-season. The 21-year-old has looked right at home from the get-go and even throughout his debut against Rovers back in February, looked like a man who had already been playing in the Dundalk defence for several years.
Star signing: Patrick Hoban
Stephen Kenny brought in no fewer than ten new faces during the close season and one name which stood out was that of Patrick Hoban, who returned for his second coming at Oriel Park following a relatively disappointing three-year spell in English football. Hoban has quite simply been on fire this season, scoring an impressive 19 goals in just 22 league starts, leaving him just 16 behind the club’s all-time record league scorer Joey Donnelly, who played for Dundalk between 1929 and 1947.
What they need in the transfer market
One thought that will no doubt be keeping Kenny and Dundalk supporters awake at night is any potential serious injury to their leading marksman Hoban, as both Marco Tagbajumi and Sam Byrne have struggled for form and fitness respectively, so a new striker should be top of Kenny’s wishlist. Georgie Kelly of UCD being mooted as a potential target while Patrick McEleney is also being heavily linked with a return to Oriel Park following an unsuccessful spell with Oldham Athletic.
Where we see them finishing
It’s possible that the mid-season break came at the worst possible time for Dundalk, who really seemed to have clicked into first gear in the weeks leading up to the break, scoring a combined total of 20 goals in their last five league outings. The battle between themselves, the entertainers, and pragmatists Cork is sure to go right down to the wire, but if Dundalk continue to play the way they did in the first half of the season, then they should just about bring the title back to the border town.