One Team, Two Cups (And the UCL)… – PearceyPlays #FM20 OS7 C2 S3 – Part 71 – Dundalk – Nov/Dec 2025 (End of Season)

Dundalk winning the Irish Champions Cup in 2019 and the FAI Cup in 2016

Welcome back to Dundalk for the end of my 3rd season at the club and 7th overall.

Two Cup Finals, the ICC over 2 legs and our 3 remaining UCL group games finish off our 2025 season.

The usual start of month admin first.

Matty Burrows wins player of the month for Derry with 9 goals in 5 games. Looking forward to him joining in January. Jordan Kelly and Neil Hanna were 2nd and 3rd.

Jake Taylor’s thunderbastard versus Cobh on 3rd October was goal of the month. Dundalks’s Ger Ryan was 2nd for Limerick with a goal versus Longford.

I win IPD Manager of the Month for October.

And we are straight into games – 4 in the next 9 days. We go to the Aviva in Dublin for the FAI Cup Final.

2nd November 2025 – Derry City (N – The Aviva Stadium, Dublin) – FAI Cup Final

FT Dundalk 1 (Moore pen 47) Derry City 0 Att 13,680 (9,863 Dundalk, 3,817 Derry)

First plays third in the Irish FA Cup Final today. Derry are in pretty good shape, so I expect a tough one. Six minutes in, Jake Taylor hits the woodwork with a header from an O’Malley free kick. Twelfth minute, Collins heads home but is adjudged to be offside. By a foot maybe. Getting a few chances. We’re on top, but it has the feeling of one of those days. 0-0 at the break. Big moment at the start of the second half, McGarvey winning a penalty, a shove by Doyle. Stevie Moore to take… 1-0, lovely penalty, bottom right with power. The second half is very quiet afterwards, the time ticks down. Last 5, all looks a bit nervy. Stoppages… And it’s all over. 1-0 Dundalk, more silverware 🙂 And £117k for the win. 28 medals dispersed, £150k bonuses paid out!!!

Currently sitting 3rd in the Ireland Manager Hall of Fame – Hoping to pass Stephen Kenny at the end of the 2026 season.

Dortmund next up in a couple of days time, also in Dublin – might stay over instead of doing the journey to Dundalk and back again.

We had 2 of the lads in the last IPD team of the week following the 2-0 win over Cork.

Loads of goals on the Tuesday evening in the UCL – Benfica also beat Sevilla 3-0 in Group D.

Finn Harps drew 1-1 in the First Division Promotion Playoff Semi – The winner plays Bohemians over 2 legs, and the winner of that plays Cobh Ramblers over another 2 legs – When we got promoted back in 2021 we did it that way, 7-1 on Agg versus Bray, 6-2 versus Limerick and 4-3 versus Bohemians. And Bohemians have been in the First Division ever since…

Ten players called up for the November internationals. Rimvydas Romanovas is a newgen from the last youth intake. Born in Kildare, 6ft 1in, looks useful. Really nice to see Stephen Andrews’s call up to the N. Ireland U21’s, Tim Foulkes get called up for the Wales U21’s and both Neil Hanna and Matty Burrows called up to the Northern Ireland first team.

5th November 2025 – Borussia Dortmund (GER) (H – Tallaght Stadium) – UCL Group E Matchday 4

FT Dundalk 2 (Stevie Moore pen 5, Collins 53) Borussia Dortmund 1 (Dollberg 84) Att 8,000 (4,000 Away)

We had our collective arses handed to us in the first half last time out, let’s not make the same mistake today. We should have the lead inside a minute, Seddon with a tame shot when in on goal. But in the 5th minute we get a pen – McShane scythed down when in on goal. Defender Stevie Moore with the shot… 1-0 Dundalk, tucked right inside the left-hand upright. A great start by the lads. Good open play, they aren’t handling Tommy Collins coming deep for the ball. We’ve missed a few good chances already, McGarvey shooting straight at the Keeper. O’Malley has made some good stops today though to keep it 1-0. Good open game as we approach half time. We go in 1-0 to the good, a bit different from the game in Germany. Dortmund start the second half more dangerously. May go 4-1-4-1? But not before we go 2-0 up!! 53rd minute, Collins with the headed finish after a lovely back to front move. Dortmund pushing right up is leaving spaces. Neco Williams with the assist cross. 39th of the season for Tommy 🙂 Got to be careful not to sit back too much though. Nearly 3 in the 74th minute, a Collins header just wide from a Holloway deep free kick. Szoboszlai currently on an 8.6 for Dortmund, nobody else above 6.8. But of course Dortmund get a goal back, 84th minute, Dollberg with a tap-in. And a kick-off highlight… nothing doing, just a Dundalk shot. Five minutes left. We somehow keep out a right stramash, definitely offside in there somewhere. Stoppages… Should have been 3-1, Duffy’s shot tipped over. Time running down. Fergie Time… And it’s all other. Another famous day for Dundalk, we win 2-1!!

Both Barcelona and Lazio dropping points. No great shocks. Another £2.3M in the pot and we are currently in 2nd place in Group E with 2 games left…

That’s a madness!!!!

We have Larne next in the 2-leg All-Ireland Champions Cup. Then a 2 week-break before we go to Camp Nou. Lazio at home will be the biggie in the last game, with the potential of European knockout football in the spring and all those lovely coefficient points. Go up a couple of places and we will be starting in the 2nd Qual Rnd next season. 15th (Currently 19th) would give us another European spot. Two more years and we will be close to the top 10 and an automatic group stage spot.

Our U19’s sit atop of the pile in the U19’s UCL group, winning 3-1 over Dortmund U19’s – Tommy Carlin with a brace & Dom Halford the scorers.

More callups.

8th November 2025 – Larne (A) – All-Ireland Champions Cup Final 1st Leg

Inver Park, Larne, Capacity 2,050

We make the trip up to the Antrim coast to play Northern Irish champions and moneybags Larne; owned by Kenny Bruce, founder of PurpleBricks in the UK (Online Estate Agents). They have a £4.5M wage bill per year, compared to our £3.3M!!! But like other AI Sugar-Daddies, they don’t seem to be spending their money wisely. Our Scouts rate their best player as a 55, 2.5* CA and on £6,500/wk…

FT Larne 1 (McCausland pen 28) Dundalk 3 (Duffy 48, 90+4, O’Malley 65) Att 2,050 (150 Away)

We start as Evens favourites. This could be a tough one though! We start off strongly (I’d rate these like a St. Pat’s or Derry) but Larne soak up the pressure. And Larne get a penalty in the 27th minute, Astler with the foul. McCausland scores, O’Malley very close to the save. We push and push, but the Larne Keeper has made a good few saves. 1-0 Larne at the break. Hairdryer given. 1-1, 48th minute, Duffy finishing off a Tommy Collins flicked header. And it’s 2-1 in the 65th minute – O’Malley with a lovely cushioned volley from a lovely Hanna cross. Dundalk really pushing on. We get to the 4th minute of stoppages and make it 3-1 – Williams striding into the box, unleashing a beautiful cross to the back post, Duffy there to volley home his 20th of the season. Clinical. We take a 3-1 win back to Co. Louth.

A 3 day turnaround until we host Larne. Rotation, Rotation, Rotation!!!.

NEW SIGNING (2nd Jan 2026)

18yo David Dallas arrives for a club record £2.1M (£1.6M up front) in January – From Crvena Zvedza…. Where he started his career (So must have been poached as he was born in Benburb, Co. Tyrone. A scout-rated 75, 3/3.5* CA, natural DLP with 3 full international caps for N. Ireland, this signing was actually started by the Chairman (And that’s fine in this instance). David & Neil Hanna will be first team regulars for the foreseeable. And it most probably means we won’t try to get Jenks for a 4th season on loan.

And natural left-winger Brian Smith has signed professional terms for the start of next season. 16yo, 12 crosses, improving, and quick. Will hopefully get him some first team football in the IPD next season.

11th November 2025 – Larne (H) – All-Ireland Champions Cup Final 2nd Leg

FT Dundalk 2 (Kelly 54, Halford 82) Larne 1 (Toure 79) Att 4,500 (225 Away) – Dundalk wins 5-2 on Aggregate

The return leg – we’ve rotated fully. Just looking to wrap this up in a professional manner. Dundalk on top, plenty of chances in the 1st half hour. 0-0 at the break. Scott in the Larne goal is keeping them in this tie. But we go 1-0 up and 4-1 on aggregate in the 54th minute – Jordan Kelly firing home on the low volley from a Jake Taylor corner. Larne equalise on the night in the 79th, defensive errors leading to Toure getting a tap-in. The reply was swift – 2-1 Dundalk, 82nd minute, Dom Halford with a tap-in after great work by Hanna, Corrigan & Connolly. We win 2-1, 5-2 on aggregate. £43k for the win, my 14th piece of Silverware with Dundalk.

We’ve had some November Internationals. Rimvydas Romanovas played in Lithuania U21’s 3-0 loss to Israel. Tim Foulkes played in Wales U21’s 2-0 loss to Spain. Evan O’Donovan and Joe Holloway played in Ireland U21’s 1-0 win over England. Tommy Carlin, Stephen Andrews and Aidan Hamilton played in N. Ireland U21’s 2-0 loss to The Netherlands. And last but not least Michael Duffy played in Ireland’s 2-0 win over the Faroes.

Our U19’s beat Swords Celtic 5-0 – goals from Brian Stapleton, Martin Kenny, 17yo Striker Andrew Carroll, and a brace for 18yo striker Tommy Coffey.

Northern Ireland’s senior team lost 3-0 to Spain – Tommy Collins & Colin McGarvey both played. As did David Dallas, with Neil Hanna and Matty Burrows on the bench.

We’re at the Relegation playoff – Finn Harps (3-2 winners over Sligo and 5-3 over Bohemians) playing Cobh Ramblers.

Cobh need a win back on the South Coast to stay in the Premier Division.

Cobh are relegated in extra time. Finn Harps and Athlone Town will be playing IPD football next season.

And another madness – Our U19’s beat Barcelona 3-0 – goals from Sean Brennan (19yo MC, not our 18yo MC of the same name) and a brace for Tommy Carlin (49 goals in 29 starts this season). P5 W4 D1, qualified for the next round!!!

And as the Relegation playoff is now complete we have the usual awards.

Dundalk’s Matty Burrows gets IPD Player of the Year for his exploits for Derry. He also gets the golden boot over Tommy Collins (20 goals) and Andrew Moore (19). The Young Player of the Year is the same as the above.

Jake Taylor gets IPD Goal of the season – a 30 yarder thunderbastard versus Cobh.

Conor O’Malley gets Keeper of the Year – 11 conceded in 29 with 20 clean sheets.

Jordan Kelly 2nd in the weird Personality of the Year award, Shelbourne’s Oscar Brennan coming out on top.

Seven Dundalk-owned players in the IPD team of the Year, Matty Burrows at Derry and Ger Ryan at Limerick. I think none of our defenders played enough league games to qualify because of rotation.

25th November 2025 – Barcelona (A) – UCL Group E Match Day 5

Camp Nou, Capacity 99,354

We make the 950 mile journey as the crow flies to Spain for our penultimate Group E UCL game. Somehow we are 2nd with 6 points. Barcelona beat us 4-2 in Dublin, so I’m not expecting anything; the last game versus Lazio at Tallaght Stadium will be key.

FT Barcelona 2 (Conor O’Malley o.g. 20, Gouiri 42) Dundalk 2 (Jenkinson 25, Connolly 72) Att 96,326 (253 Away)

Expecting a thumping here – playing away seems to be so difficult. As expected Barca look dangerous going forwards. I hate these games as it seems to just be highlight after highlight. And the opener is really unlucky – a Rodrigo speculative shot seems to have come back off the post and off the outstretched O’Malley and in for an own goal. 1-0 Barca, 20th minute. But fucking take that!!! 1-1, 25th minute, Jenks with a lovely powerful daisy-cutter finish from the edge of the area following a flowing team move. Great goal. first time I’ve ever shouted ‘No Pressure’ as well, just before. Genius 🙂 It’s actually quite tight as we move towards the break. But a Pulis-ball goal undoes us, 2-1, 42nd minute, 60 yard ball, Gouiri breaks the offside trap and scores well. 2-1 Barca at the break. 253 Dundalk fans in the Camp Nou this evening out of a crowd of over 96,000 🙂 We get to 60 mins with very little happening. But a madness then occurs, 72nd minute, 2-2!!!! AND IT’S AN ABSOLUTE WORLDIE! Good hustling up front by Collins and McShane (DLF), Williams gets hold of it, clips the ball over and Connolly, on for Duffy, slams the ball past Ter Stegen, just after on the up after the half volley! A crazy goal. I’d still expect Barca to win this, but we can dream 🙂 Time running down… O’Malley making a good stop with 4 minutes left. Stoppages… Connolly defending like a trojan, then up the other end harrying Ter Stegen 🙂 Legend. End to end in the final moments, and De Ligt hauls down Collins just in the Barca half with nobody else between him and the goal, a sending-off, surely…. Just a fucking warning, not even a yellow!!! And it’s all over!!!! A point at Barcelona – FM20, completed it mate 🙂

So, Lazio win… No shocks.

OK – We play Lazio to see who tops the group 🙂 🙂 🙂 Win and we do as that would be 2 wins versus Lazio. Draw or Lose and here are the scenarios:

  • Dundalk Draw, Barca Win – Europa League Knockouts
  • Dundalk Draw, Dortmund win – UCL Knockouts
  • Dundalk Draw, Barca/Dortmund Draw – UCL Knockouts
  • Dundalk Lose, Barca win – Europa
  • Dundalk Lose, Dortmund win – I think Europa on countback as Dortmund have a better head to head
  • Dundalk lose, Barca/Dortmund Draw – Europa

So we definitely have European knockouts in the spring. UCL is worth £8M just for qualifying, plus another £9M if you can get to the Quarters. Europa we had early this season, £430k for getting to the 1st Knockout Round. We’ve just got £775k for that draw!!!! And we’ve nicked coefficient points from Barca as well 🙂 Points taken from all 3 of our opponents, and this is a definite Group of Death!!!

For coefficients The Europa would be a better path – we can get deep in that again. And get a ton of points. Monetarily though the UCL is the only game in town.

The Lazio game isn’t for 2 weeks, so I’ll sneak a friend in the middle, so the guys have a half.

Lyon with a good win versus Real in Madrid – Both already qualified.

I keep getting Takeover new items…

Right, a cheeky little friendly versus P.S.N.I. (Police Service of Northern Ireland, Northern Irish 3rd tier team)

FT Dundalk 10 (Collins 18, 32, 34, McGarvey 26, 43, Connolly 35, Barton 52, Kelly 68, 77, 83) P.S.N.I 0 Att x (x Away)

Standard and expected, blew P.S.N.I away in the first half, 6-0 at the break. Keep the morale nice and high.

I’ve taken on a DoF, Espen Olsen, 46, Manager & DoF in Norway, mainly for staff matters, working with the Technical Director.

Jason Knight’s season is over – pulled knee ligaments, out for a couple of weeks

We have the first of our releasees picking up clubs – Kerl Harmon, 20yo DR will be going to Derry City in January.

OK, fuck off game! 2 games before the Lazio game… Will take a punt

Again, a lack of shocks. Groups A through D

No major upsets – Benfica maybe, with Sevilla in the Europa League. And Inter, with RB Leipzig going through.

The second of our released players gets picked up – Kevin Noakes (20yo DC) goes to Cork City in january.

And so, possibly the biggest game in our save so far. Lazio arrive in Dublin. Let’s do this.

10th December 2025 – Lazio (ITA) (H – Tallaght Stadium) – UCL Group E Matchday 6

FT Dundalk 3 (O’Malley 22, 68, Duffy 33) Lazio 2 (Vlahovic 43, 81) Att 8,000 (446 Away)

Lazio only start as 6/4 favourites, are 6th in Serie A but are in decent form. We beat them in the Stadio Olimpico, can we do it again in the Stadio Tallaght and top the group!!! A slowish start, both teams probing. Barcelone 2-0 early in Dortmund – we need a win to have UCL football in the Spring. And the breakthrough comes in the 22nd minute, a really quick break, McGarvey punting the ball forward to Tommy Collins, who controls and lays in Steven O’Malley in acres, he strolls in and scores his 14th goal of the season. Game on! Top of the group as it stands 🙂 Should have been 2 not long after, O’Malley this time snatching a bit, Radu with the save. Radu keeping Lazio in it with a fine tip-over from a Taylor far-post header. But it’s a stunner that puts us 2-0 up – Michael Duffy, tek a boo son!! He wins the ball back 20 yards into the Dundalk half on the left win from rightback Lazzari, runs in on goal unchallenged 60 yards and scores past an immobile Radu. 2-0 Dundalk!!!!!!!!! Barcelona currently going into the Europa League!! It’s all Dundalk, but 2 minutes from Half Time it’s 2-1, Vlahovic with a good finish after a quick Lazio move. And it’s a kickoff highlight… nearly 3-1 after a fine passing move from the boys. 2-1 Dundalk at the break, a good tight game. 45 minutes from another £8M! Similar to the Barcelona game, the second half starts quietly. The first real highlight is in the 68th minute, and it’s 3-1 Dundalk!!! Another flowing passing move, Duffy ending up with it, floating a ball in for O’Malley to head home beautifully!!! What a performance lads!!! But it’s the curse of the set pieces. 3-2, 81st minute, Vlahovic with a tap-in, onside after the ball reaches him from a flick-on/attempted challenge. 15 minutes or so to hang on. But we’ve been the better team, not changing anything. 5 minutes of normal time, Dortmund back to 2-1. A bit end to end here in Dublin. Squeaky-Bum. Lazio pushing, Dundalk countering. Radu makes a superb save from a Jenks header with a minute left of normal time. 5 minutes of stoppages, Lazio keeping us out. Last chance for Lazio, 90+5, free kick ou wide, palumbo clean on goal… but he tries to pull it back!! McGarvey runs away with the ball and nearly scores himself. Breathless football… AND IT’S ALL OVER!!!! 3-2 Dundalk, we qualify for the UCL Knockout Stages!! Top of the Group of Death 🙂 🙂 🙂 FM20, Completed it Mate!

Barca playing Europa League Football in the Spring 🙂 Livepool beat PSG 1-0 in the game that didn’t fit on the page at the bottom.

Will you look at the state of that! We want Liverpool 🙂 🙂 🙂 Some big teams in the Europa – Inter, Barca, Atletico, Ajax!!

How has that happened 🙂 £2.3M for the win, £651k of unallocated prize money for draws. Currently £43M in the bank, with a definite £8M coming in the 1st Knockout Round.

That’s what happens when you start in the 1st Qualifying Round! We also have the potential of getting Ireland up to 15th in the Coefficients next season – we’d start in the 2nd Qual Round plus we’d get 5 places in Europe as a nation, with 2nd going into the Best Placed playoff route for the UCL, 3rd into the Europa and 2 in the Conference League. About 2 years ahead off schedule. Let’s build this nation!

What an end to a season!! We are a top-16 club in Europe now, somehow.

See you next time for the build-up to the 2026 season, my 4th Season with Dundalk and my 8th overall.

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