It’s not to often that when you go to a game, two goals have gone in before you settle into the contest. But that’s what happened last Sunday night when Castlebar Celtic hosted Dundalk in the Newstalk A league in Celtic Park. In a game which saw nine goals go in over the 90 minutes, two of them hit the back of Robert Hennelly’s net before some of the crowd had even arrived, two minutes into the game. In what was at times a lopsided game, Celtic did manage to pull the gap back to only two goals with minutes to go, despite being 5-1 down at one stage midway through the second half.
But even that was a false dawn as Dundalk rattled in their sixth goal in injury time through Johnny Breen (2 ). Their other goals came from Mark Griffin who hit a hat trick, the second and third coming within seconds of each other on either side of the half time break, and John Smyth who kick-started the goal-fest early on. Celtic’s goals came from new signing Martin Owens, Declan Flynn, and Ioseph O’Reilly.
The performance last week was the worst the side have ever put in during their two years in the league, according to Celtic manager Declan Kilkelly. “It was comical, but more to the point it was terrible. It was the worst performance I’ve seen this side put in over the last few years, the lads know it themselves. Some of our defending at times was terrible, that’s what let them in so often and there is no one more upset about it than me.”
Lack of concentration at this level will kill you, according to Kilkelly. “If you switch off and defend like we did last weekend you’ll get destroyed and that’s what happened. The fourth goal just after the break was the one that killed the game dead. At 3-1 you were always in with a shout and we were up for the second half, but we defended badly again and they scored.” While they did concede six goals over the 90 minutes, they managed to hit the net three times themselves, but it wasn’t enough. “When we had the ball we looked good going forward and we troubled them, but it’s not enough if you defend as poorly as we did from the front.”
Shipping a beating like that could make people question Celtic’s decision to move up to this level, but Kilkelly is unrelenting in his belief it was the right and only logical decision for the club to make. “You can be a big fish in a small pond all the time, and win loads of trophies over and over again. But as a football person you always want to challenge yourself and your team to challenge themselves. That’s what this is, we’re all challenging ourselves here, and when you play poorly at this level you’ll take a beating like that. But it will stand to the players who played in it later on down the line, and make them better players. Martin Owens signed for us and played the last day, and he’s a 17-year-old lad, is it not better for his development as a player that he’s playing in games like that rather than at a lower level? Playing against better players can only make you better.”
This Sunday Celtic get another chance to pick up some points when they host another Louth outfit when Drogheda come to town. But it is going to be another tough test for Kilkelly’s charges. “They’re a good side, they’re top of the league on merit and will be hard to beat, but it’s another chance for us to go out there and prove ourselves and improve as players and a team.”