Game 20

Dundalk 1-0 Finn Harps

On a day that was arguably too hot to function as a human being in any capacity, Dundalk played Finn Harps and came away with the win. The first-half display was very impressive and it should have been a very comfortable afternoon but as is the way with this team and this club, the straight forward option was not chosen.

An edgy second half led to some jangled sun burnt nerves but they held on for the win and both teams deserve credit for the fitness levels shown in what can only be described as fucking mental heat.

As we walked out of the ground (yes, I was chosen again) there was an announcement made that Thursday night’s Europa Conference game against Levadia Tallinn will take place in Tallaght at 8pm. This wasn’t a surprise, we all knew that Oriel wouldn’t be able to host any game beyond the first round but it did make me think about legacy.

Dynasties come to an end. All great teams break up. Anyone who is enjoying a sustained period of success knows that it could end at any moment. One bad appointment, one bad signing, one bad sale and everything starts to disintegrate.

We all knew that this glorious period would end at some point. Gannon, Shields, Mountney, Massey, Rogers, McEleney…we knew they would all leave. Probably not in the circumstances that they have done but we knew it wouldn’t last forever.

What is supposed to happen when you have this sustained success is that you’re supposed to build on it. You’re supposed to plan for the future. You can let players leave but you have to have a plan to replace them. Maybe you can’t play your home games at home but you plan for the future where you can.

This period of success was built from the rubble the football club was in back in 2012. We knew that our first entry into Europe, if successful, would eventually lead us away from Oriel because it was in no way shape or form fit for purpose in Europe. And Europe wasn’t our focus then anyway, it was a bonus, the focus was attaining domestic dominance. That dominance was attained and it was retained.

One of the greatest nights any of us ever saw was beating Bate in the Champions League. You should get goosebumps just thinking about Robbie Benson running clean through on goal to make it three.

The worst part of that night was that it wasn’t in the town. I know we couldn’t have done anything about it then but that night should have shown us all that we needed to get more European games back in Oriel. Not all of them because Oriel is what it is.

The idea that we can’t play Levadia Tallinn at home on Thursday is honestly depressing. This isn’t a Champions League game, this isn’t a Europa League game and still Oriel can’t host it.

This period of success was built on ruins and that’s exactly what’s being left behind afterwards. No one was expecting miracles, no one was expecting Oriel to, overnight, become a beautiful 10,000 all seater stadium. Oriel is what it is. We love Oriel because it is what it is. But the lack of effort to try to improve things, to at least make some inroads into the issues facing the ground? It’s mind boggling.

Or maybe it’s not, maybe we were the idiots. We were told improvements were coming. We were told there were plans. The facilities for the players have greatly improved and that is to be commended. Toilets were painted. Dressing rooms and offices were painted.

Maybe I shouldn’t say a lack of effort to try to improve things. I’m not in the offices, I’m not in any way affiliated with the club and I’m not in the loop on plans for the ground, maybe they did try their hardest. Maybe they did throw everything at it. I doubt it. They did try to buy the Aviva though.

You probably know more than me about how difficult it is to come up with viable solutions for the issues at the ground. I’d expect most of the issues would be expensive to solve. Again, were we stupid to assume they might take some of these on?

Whatever the reasons are, and I’m sure there are many, don’t get me wrong I know none of this is simple and straightforward, it still feels like we’ve been hoodwinked.

We’ve been told recently that the pitch is an issue and it was being looked into to see if a grass pitch could go back in. We were told that efforts were going to be made to improve the match day experience for fans.

You might read this and think “he doesn’t know anything, they tried this, this and this” and that’s fine. I’d be happy if that was case. I would still be upset and pissed off at the outcome though.

The legacy that is going to be left behind after Peak6 leave is going to be one of colossal missed opportunities. We had endless possibilities at our fingertips and they have been squandered.

A squad that is a shell of what we could and should have might get eliminated from European football in the next couple of weeks. We might still qualify for next season but who knows with this club. The manager might leave to go manage the Northern Ireland under 21s, Andy Boyle might be leading a team of youth players in the first division next season.

The least we could ask for is to see the death of the dynasty in the ruins of the ground that it was built on.

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