Welcome back to another instalment of my FM20 Journeyman, currently loving life at my second club, Dundalk, in my 5th Season of management. This month brings my first participation in the Champions League, with the potential of making either a 2,500km journey to Sofia in Bulgaria or a mad 5,000km+ journey to Nur-Sultan (As far East as Ahmedabad in Pakistan and the Maldives), formerly Astana, to play the Kazakh champions in the 2nd Qualifying Round.
Derry City are first up before we make the 1,500km (930 miles) journey to Reykjavik to play their champions Vikingur in the 1st Qualifying Round (We missed a fair few really tough teams in the draw), with a little League game with Shamrock Rovers before we play the Icelanders in the 2nd leg (Hopefully we will put the tie to bed in Iceland). the Potential then is Cork on the Saturday followed by a long journey to Bulgaria or Kazakhstan for the Wednesday before coming back and facing Longford, hopefully on Sunday 30th, making it potentially a 7-game month.
The transfer window will be very important. We need to push on and make some marquee signings – the possibility of getting to the Champions League group stage is remote but could be so lucrative it’s not even funny.
Chris McCabe joins from Cliftonville as our 2nd best right-back at the club. 20yo, 6ft, 17 U21 caps for Northern Ireland he has fair potential, and he will be training as a right wingback. Love the physicals, plus Teamwork, Work Rate & Bravery all stand out for his age. Welcome Chris.
Manager of the Month again. We have just under £4.5M in the bank (Lost £340k last month). A- with the board still. Dynamics still Good/Very Good/Very Good.
Our U19’s beat Salthill 6-1 – goals from Brian Connolly, Dan Kelly, a brace from Jamie McGrath and a brace from Jordan Kelly.
- 24yo, 5ft 9in
- DMC/MC – BWM
- Joins from Crewe after starting his career at Man City. IRL he’s with Blackburn
Jacob Davenport joins as a solid DM/MC option as a Ball Winner, something we are in short supply of. Looking to him to be a rotational player with all these games coming up, and with nice Mentals he’s a bit of an upgrade on Glen Rea. The fans need to be convinced obviously…
All our our back 5 (Conor, Ryan, Andy, Dara & Sean) plus Aaron & Patrick in midfield made the IPD Team of the Week for their performances in the 4-0 win over Shelbourne.
We have a few contract extensions done. Darragh Cunningham (21yo DC – £350/wk) and Sean Gannon (£1.2k/wk) have penned new deals.
- 24yo, 5ft 8in MC (BBM)
- Joins from Notts Forest – IRL he’s with with Scunthorpe on Loan
Jake Taylor joins as a very capable BBM – a position I like in a CM – And is better than Glen Rea in all areas apart from Aerial. A nice purchase – Championship/League 1 level players should do well in Ireland. He’s also a passable left back.
Patrick McEleney has penned a new 1-year deal 🙂 How could I not with his contributions so far this season.
7th July 2023 – Derry City (H) – Irish Premier Division
We welcome 5th-placed Derry to Oriel Park this evening wanting a good win before we go into our Champions League Qualifier next week. I’m sure Derry will want the same as they travel to Luxembourg for their Conference League Qualifier next Thursday. They’ve only the 1 win in their last 5 (Shelbourne) so it may be a tough day at the office for them (Hopefully).
We go 4-4-2 after they way it ripped Shelbourne apart in the last half-hour in the last match, Hoban partnering McGarvey up top. Jake Taylor comes in for his debut as a BBM, Duffy plays as a conventional winger, the wingbacks go conventional as well and our centre-backs Ray & Nathan are back from the Euro U21’s (France beat Wales 3-0 in the final – scouting Welsh youth players now :)). Derry go with a Cautious 4-4-1-1.
FT Dundalk 2 (McGarvey 19, Muinonen 24 O.G.) Derry City 1 (Duggan 51) Att 3,409 (167 Away)
It’s a rainy 24C in Dundalk this evening as Duffy nearly scores in the first 3 minutes – a nice stop by the Derry Keeper. Derry blocking like demons. But we take the lead in the 19th minute – a lovely McGarvey headed finish from a Jenkinson free kick. 2-0 in the 24th – goes against Muinonen as an OG but Duffy’s shot (After a lovely ball over by Jenks) looked like it was in before dribbling over the line off of the Keeper’s head/chest. Derry attempting to get back in the game, but O’Malley is looking exceptional currently. Some lovely play by Dundalk towards the end of the half, we go in 2-0 to the good.
2-1 in the 52nd minute, a belter from Gary Duggan. Derry stepping up their game. 55 – Dan Kelly on for Duffy – losing my patience a bit with him TBH – 6.5… 70, double sub, Rea for Hoban (4-1-4-1), Benson for Taylor. Feels like Derry are going to get something out of this game. Loads of highlights are we go into stoppage time. We do move the ball about the pitch really nicely, a few chances as the clock ticks down. And we hang on, 2-1 it finishes.
5 points clear now as Shamrock drop points at Sligo – bit of a mid-season slump going on for them. We do want them (And St. Pat’s and Derry) to do well in their European games as the Coefficient points are very important for the Irish league as a whole.
4-4-2 means we needed another striker. And what a striker!! Tommy Collins (19yo, 9 U21 caps, 2 goals) comes in from Glenavon as a 1-in-2 striker, even at such a young age. 16 Finishing, 16 Composure is nice, but what sealed the deal is his height – 6ft 8in in old money 🙂 We will be seeing an all Northern-Irish front line with Colin McGarvey 🙂
We’ve had our first scout report of Vikingur – We should be OK 🙂
Team Captain Patrick Hoban goes to Wycombe for £60k – We will be paying half his current wage (£1.5k) until the end of the season. We weren’t going to renew so we’ve gotten a little bit of money for him. Glen Rea now the new Captain.
Our U19’s beat Shelbourne 5-1 – goals from Ger Ryan, Martin Kenny, Alan Brady & a brace from Tommy Carlin.
Registration done – pretty solid 25 there.
Reykjavik gripped by Champions League fever 🙂 40 hardy souls expected to travel from Dundalk.
Conor O’Malley & Ryan Corrigan make the IPD Team of the Week after the 2-1 versus Derry City.
12th July 2023 – Knattspyrnufélagið Víkingur (ISL) (A) – UEFA Champions League – Champions 1st Qualifying Round 1st Leg
We make the 1,424km journey to Reykjavik this evening to play Vikingur (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knattspyrnuf%C3%A9lagi%C3%B0_V%C3%ADkingur) in what will hopefully be a successful outing. As I mentioned earlier our scouts are not too bothered by the standard of their team (2-3.5* CA Maximum) but we won’t be taking the Michael, especially with the players unused to making this kind of journey. Our best 11 will be on the pitch.
Tommy Collins makes his debut this evening – hoping for a fruitful partnership with Colin up top. Only other change is Rea as BBM for Taylor, especially as I’ve made him club captain. Vikingur expected to go with a Positive 4-4-2.
FT Knattspyrnufélagið Víkingur 0 Dundalk 3 (Jenkinson 9, 90+4 McGarvey 64) Att 1,854 (46 Away)
And it should have been 1-0 Dundalk inside a minute – a beautiful long ball by Moore put McGarvey in on goal, but he tamely passed it to the Vikingur Keeper. We do take the lead inside the first 10 though – Jenks with a Direct FK, bottom left, flicking in off the post, Keeper unmoved. Collins looks like an absolute behemoth against the other players 🙂 This isn’t a push-over by any means though. 1-0 at the break.
Taylor on for Rea at Half Time. Collins should have his debut goal – another 1-on-1 missed. And we finally make it 2-0 in the 64th minute – Collins going on a mazy run, his shot parried straight to McGarvey, who walks it in. Dan Kelly on for McEleney soon after. Jordan Kelly on for Collins for the last 15. Jenks is having a blinder this evening, he’s everywhere! O’Malley tips the ball over in stoppages to keep the clean sheet intact, and then a worldie of a free kick, yep another one, from Jenks makes it 3-0 – This one 30 yards out top left bins!!! Could have been 4 in the last seconds, McGarvey having 2 separate efforts saved. 3-0 it finished. A nice professional outing.
Astana win 2-0 in Sofia, so I’m expecting a trip to Kazakhstan some time soon. A fair few big wins, TNS winning 6-0 versus Tarxien Rainbows of Malta & Djurgardens 8-0 versus Flora Tallinn being 2 of them. No real shocks, except maybe Dinamo Zagreb drawing versus Olimpija Ljubljana.
Shamrock next up in 4 days. They beat Paide LM of Estonia 5-0 – Brian Sammon with 4 🙂 And we’ve been informed our home game versus Vikingur will be on the Tele 🙂
Nathan Tormey goes to Notts County for £10k – his contract was up at the end of the season. We will be paying £250/wk (1/2 his wage) until then.
A couple of League games played – Cobh with another priceless point as Shelbourne lose. At the same time last year (21 games) we had 30 points and were 6th, after a 1-1 draw versus, of all the teams, Dundalk 🙂
Our U19’s beat Longford 3-1, goals from 18yo MR Dan Cross, 17yo AML David O’Callaghan and 19yo American U20 Striker Harry Durham.
And just looked – St. Pat’s lost 1-0 at home to Valur Reykjavik, Derry City won 4-0 away to Progres Niederkorn in Luxembourg. promising for the Irish teams, St. Pat’s just need to pull their fingers out.
16th July 2023 – Shamrock Rovers (A) – Irish Premier Division
A tough trip to Dublin awaits this evening as we play fellow title challengers Shamrock Rovers. Win and we go 8 points clear, but we also need to not fuck-up our 2nd leg tie versus Vikingur in 3 days. How much rotation?
A fair bit. Back to a safer 4-1-4-1 DM, Collins on his own as a TM up top, Connolly as the left winger, White behind him. Davenport comes in for his debut as the ball winning DM. O’Shea plays, Ngoy rested. Wouldn’t begrudge a draw TBH. Shamrock going 4-4-2. Hopefully they’ve not managed their rest well.
FT Shamrock Rovers 0 Dundalk 1 (O’Shea 69) Att 3,857 (527 Away)
Shamrock looking the better team early doors, but it’s a tight affair. 0-0 at the break.
Duffy on for Connolly at Half Time. Nothing until the first goal in the 69th minute – and it’s to Dundalk! Keeshan in the Shamrock goal comes for a Jenks free kick, misses it completely and Dara O’Shea heads in at the back post. 1-0 Dundalk. I was just about to go 4-4-2 as well…75, Benson for Jenks, McGarvey for Collins. Time ticks down rapidly, stoppages… and that’s that!! Thoroughly professional 1-0 win, 8 points clear with 14 to play 🙂 And as we only play Shamrock once more everything is firmly in our hands.
A nice sight, being 8 clear. Next game is the return versus Vikingur in 3 days.
PLAYER LEAVING (LOAN)
Ger Ryan (18yo MC) joins Finn Harps until the end of the season.
Dara O’Shea & Jenks make the IPD Team of the Week following the 1-0 win at Shamrock Rovers.
19th July 2023 – Knattspyrnufélagið Víkingur (ISL) (H) – UEFA Champions League – Champions 1st Qualifying Round 2nd Leg
We welcome Vikingur to Oriel Park (Pretty sure we can’t play here in the 2nd Round if we get there as you need an 8,000 seater stadium) for the 2nd Leg, and we want to put on a professional display.
Back to 4-4-2, Holloway in as a CM(D), McGrath as the winger on the right. Corrigan to CWB(A) and Duffy to IW(S) to see if I can get the best out of Duffy. Vikingur go 4-4-2 Positive as well.
FT Dundalk 1 (Rea 77) Knattspyrnufélagið Víkingur 0 Att 4,352 (70 Away) – Dundalk win 4-0 on aggregate.
It’s a rainy summer evening in Dundalk this evening. Dundalk straight on the attack, the Keeper somehow keeping a Collins header out in the 3rd minute. Vikingur look assured on the ball, they are just keeping it too long and we harry them into mistakes. 0-0 at HT.
Gannon looking a bit tired so McCabe comes on for his debut at Half Time. So many headers have gone over this evening. 65 gone, Jordan Kelly on for Collins. 75, Glen Rea on for Holloway. Inspired, 1-0 , 77th minute, Rea from just outside the box 🙂 And we keep on rolling. 1-0 at FT. 2nd Qualifying Round here we come.
We’ll be playing Astana – 9-1 winners on aggregate over Sofia(!). Crusaders of NI nearly did a madness versus Conference League Winners from last season Slavia Prague. Maybe Molde putting Legia Warszawa out 4-2 with a 4-1 win in Poland can be considered a shock? Cork City next up in 3 days before the monster trip to Nur-Sultan, 71 Degrees East, for the 2nd Qualifying Round 1st Leg. Going to be very tough indeed, but it would be immense to get to the 3rd Round, where some bigger clubs come in.
Cobh Ramblers secure another draw against a rival at the bottom.
And looking at the other European results Shamrock progress 8-1 on aggregate and face Odds BK (Yes, the same Odds BK I now manage in FM19) from Norway, Derry City won 8-0 on aggregate and face Viktoria Plzen (Czechia), both tough ties. St. Pat’s went out 3-1 on aggregate at the hands of Valur Reykjavik, who face Neman Grodno of Belarus next.
PLAYER JOINING (LOAN)
Augusto Laera (19yo, 6ft 2in, Capped by Italy at U20’s) comes in until the end of the Season on loan. A very solid option indeed, and should get a good few games with our European commitments.
22nd July 2023 – Cork City (H) – Irish Premier Division
We welcome a Cork City side unbeaten since we put 5 past them at the beginning of May this evening, knowing we will be kicking off our 2nd Qualifying Round tie in the Champions League over 5,000km away in 96 hours. I’ll take not losing, please & thank you.
4-4-2 positive, Collins partnering Jordan Kelly up top, Connolly, benson, Rea & Dan Kelly across the middle, White, debutant Laera, O’Shea & McCabe at the back. Almost full rotation with FK Astana in our sights. Cork go with a Defensive 4-4-1-1.
FT Dundalk 2 (Collins 47, 62) Cork City 2 (O’Neill Pen 56, Stokes 67) Att 4,500 (225 Away)
Almost straight away Brian Connolly gets a tight groin – will see if we can nurse him to HT. A decent start from the boys. Again, we are getting chances, but are too profligate. 0-0 at HT.
Duffy on for Connolly at HT. Slowing the game down, bring the lines together. And a really nice start, with Tommy Collins getting his first for the club – A Dan Kelly cross headed down by Collins to Jordan Kelly, his shot was deflected straight to back to Collins, who slotted home from 10 yards. 56th minute, Penalty to Cork – debutant Laera with an apparent push on O’Neill. 1-1, bottom left. Taylor on for Rea. 2-1 Dundalk in the 62nd, brilliant work from Dan Kelly, winning the ball back in Centre Midfield, slipping Collins in who finished nicely, and is now on for a hat-trick. 66th minute, not seen this in FM20, Laera sent off for a handball for no fucking reason whatsoever… Sheehan on for Jordan Kelly, McCabe moving to centre back, Sheehan as Left Back. 2-2 from the free kick that result – Stokes. Fuck Sake. Cork pushing, but are weak on the counter. And Collins should have won it in the last minute of normal time, his 1-on-1 saved by Ryan. 5 minutes of Injury Time. But we see it out. 2-2. I’ll take it, with what amounts to the 2nd team.
We will still be 2 wins ahead of Shamrock if they win their game in hand – that was a good draw. Had that a couple of times now – young debutant getting sent off whilst playing Get Stuck In. Right, lets go to Kazakhstan!!
Shamrock do indeed win, 4-2 after being 4-0 up. Waterford do their European place credentials no harm with a 2-0 away win at St. Pat’s.
And Our U19’s beat Glebe North 1-0 – Winger Sinclair Armstrong with the goal.
We’ve had our first scout report on Astana – and interestingly apart from 2 players (Dorin Rotariu, ROU, 27yo, 23 caps and Tomas Kalas, 30yo, CZE, 32 caps) they won’t be vastly superior to what we have.
The Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round Draw is today, before any of the 2nd round games. We’re not seeded – TNS are though…
Away in the 1st Leg again – Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia, Non-Playable League, Wage bill substantially less than Astana) or Molde (Norway, playable league but 14th/16 after 15 games, very similar wage bill to us). Definitely winnable, Astana seem to be far tougher than either.
Laera now registered for the Champions League. Brian Connolly not happy that he’s not in the 25. Transfer Listed 🙂
Dan Kelly & Tommy Collins in the IPD Team of the Week following the 2-2 versus Cork City.
PLAYER LEAVING (LOAN)
American U19 international Harry Durham goes to Finn Harps on loan until the end of the season.
26th July 2023 – FK Astana (KAZ) (A) – UEFA Champions League Champions 2nd Qualifying Round 1st Leg
We arrive in Kazakhstan after a mad journey (A chartered flight from Dublin for this one, otherwise you’ve got at least 2 changeovers to get there from Dublin) and a game just 96 hours ago to face a very useful FK Astana side – some players on > £20k/week, Loanee Tomas Kalas apparently worth £7.5M (But he is on loan from Bristol City, so that puts it into perspective a bit). We’re going to give it a good go. Astana are only slight favourites with the bookies, which bodes well.
4-4-1-1 DM, a bit more defensively minded but definitely the best 11 we have in my opinion at the moment. Wondering if playing against a team that won’t (or shouldn’t) be on the back foot could be a good thing for us… Astana go with a 4-2-3-1 2DM AM formation – I note their team is aged – 5 of the back 6 are 30+, youngest is 27… Push the Tempo??
FT Astana 0 Dundalk 0 Att 4,597 (28 Away)
Astana in their Kazakh-flag inspired kit, very light blue and yellow. McGarvey going close in the first 5. Their first highlight ends up being a Dundalk break, looking good so far. McGarvey close again in the 24th, his shot from a corner straight into the Astana Keeper’s hands. iAstana have the ball in the net in the 31st, a hedenstad free kick parried by O’Malley, but Icelander Sigurjonsson was just offside when the free kick was struck. Their Keeper, Askarov, in a non-player but has kept them in it a bit, saving from McGarvey at least 4 times. iThey do look dangerous on the ball though. 0-0 at the break, we are slightly on top.
60 minutes comes up – would be nice to get an away goal – do I go 4-4-2? Maybe in the last 20? 71st minute, Jenks hit the base of the post… then McEleney somehow kept out. White for Corrigan just before 75. Rolling the dice, last 10, Positive 4-4-2, Collins for Taylor, Holloway into central midfield as a CM(D), let see if the big man can cause some problems. 89th minute, Free Kick in the ‘D’ after Collins was scythed down by Kalas. Holloway steps up… straight into the wall. Don’t know how we’ve not one this one. 0-0 at FT. They are nothing to be scared of.
Molde & Dinamo also play out a 0-0 – Again, no real shocks. Just Longford left this month, in less than 72 hours – full rotation expected.
Michael Duffy – Tight Groin – 1/2 days – Yep, no game for him until the 2nd leg. Which is what would have happened anyway.
The FAI Cup (Senior Challenge Cup) 1st Round Draw has happened.
Away to Athlone Town (Bottom of the 1st Division). St. Pat’s v Waterford the tie of the round. At least 3 non-league teams will be in the 2nd Round. This is where we will need 3 squads, with Europe, League and domestic cups all running simultaneously.
The Friday night games see Cork City continue their winning ways. I can see them finishing 3rd.
And a quick check of the European results for Shamrock & Derry City – Shamrock beat Odds BK (NOR) 2-1 at home, a superb result, and Derry City lost 3-1 at home to Viktoria Plzen (CZE).
29th July 2023 – Longford (H) – Irish Premier Division
We welcome bottom team Longford to Oriel Park this evening, and they will play against our 2nd team, Only Collins and O’Malley can be considered first-teamers.
4-4-2, go get the win lads! Longford with their weird 3-1-4-2 DM Cautious.
FT Dundalk 10 (Ten) (Collins 20, 27, 31, 70, McGrath 26, Jordan Kelly 45+1, 57, Pen 86, Dan Kelly 71, McCabe 74) Longford 2 (Hughes 66, 90+2) Att 3,150 (128 Away)
Looks like a nice evening here in Dundalk. Aidan White picks up a tight thigh early on – lets see if we can get him through the match, or at least to 60. 1-0 Dundalk in the 20th minute, Tommy Collins set free by a Benson pass after good work from Rea winning the ball back, finishing well across the Keeper. And the big man does a cartwheel in celebration :). Should have been 2-0 seconds after the restart, a mad melee in the Longford 6-yard box coming to nowt. Mcgrath makes it 2-0 in the 26th after lovely work by Robbie Benson, McGrath scoring from just outside the 6-yard box. His first of the season. 3-0 just seconds later – Tommy Collins with an easy header from 3 yards from a Benson Free-Kick. Lets see if he can get his hat-trick! I’d say men vs Boys, except Collins isn’t 20 yet 🙂 And he does 🙂 4-0, 31st minute, Collins with a nice header from a McCabe cross, Steacy could only parry it into his own net. An 11-minute hat-trick from the Lurgan boy. Jordan Kelly makes it 5 in the first minute of injury time, a really nice header from an Aidan White cross. 5-0 at the break 🙂
Corrigan on for White at half time, not worth risking a worse injury than it seems. Jordan Kelly gets his second in the 57th minute, a volley from a tight angle from an O’Shea header from a Robbie Benson Free Kick. Longford get 1 back on the break, Hughes with the finish. Demand More!! And it’s 7-1 in the 70th – Collins with his 4th and 3rd header from a lovely McCabe cross. 8-1 within a minute, Dan Kelly at the back post with a cushioned volley from another McCabe ball over!! Davenport for Rea. 9-1 in the 74th, and McCabe caps a superb performance with a stunning drive from just inside the box from a Ryan Corrigan cross. Been feeling like this has been coming all season. We want 10!! Last 10, McGarvey on for Tommy Collins. 85 gone – penalty – McGrath brought down by Doherty. Jordan Kelly for his hat-trick… 10-1 🙂 Time for any more? Yes, but to Longford, Hughes on the break again.
Remember, that’s pretty much our second team!! Collins is going to be a monster. McCabe had a superb game as well. And Robbie Benson is a superb stand-in for Jenks. And that sets a raft of records for goals in a game etc.
Aidan White – Tight Thigh – 1/2 days – Might dial back the training a notch, this is becoming regular.
That’s that for an entertaining July. 23 unbeaten now in the league, and we last lost a competitive game on 2nd March – 30 games ago!!
If I were a betting man I would say we potentially could have 10 matches in August with European games! Will need some careful management. We have 12 league games left, hoping that we can have that won with at most 3/4 games left, which will allow for some of the kids to get some game time. As they will in the domestic cups.
With a few days left here are the last pieces from the month.
Shamrock remain two wins back after a good 2-1 win versus Waterford.
And our U19’s beat Usher Celtic 7-0 – goals from Barney McKeown, Anthony Forde, Alan Brady, Brian Stapleton and a hat-trick from Tommy Carlin.
31-yo Robbie Benson signs for another year after a succession of really good performances at playmaker – I can’t see the number of games we have to play decreasing any time soon, so having a player like Benson for £850/wk is a no-brainer. 18yo Ger Ryan also signs for another year. And 17yo STC Tommy Carlin (14 goals in 8 starts this season for the U19’s) signs for another year.
And with that the transfer window shuts and we reach 1st August 2023. I leave you with the key Highlights from the month. See you soon.