Stephen Kenny says "injured" Ciaran Kilduff "insisted" on playing against Rovers

Champions Dundalk got their title defence off to a winning start against Shamrock Rovers on Friday night

Stephen Kenny, Ciaran Kilduff, Dundalk

Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Stephen Kenny praised the "character" of his players last night following Dundalk's 2-1 at home to Shamrock Rovers.

His players, he said, "rallied around each other" and produced a display which was enough to get their quest for a fourth successive title off to a winning start. Kenny pointed at Ciaran Kilduff as the perfect example of this.

"In terms of the hunger and the effort, it was very evident alright," he told eir Sport. "It's been a tough couple of weeks for us, we've lost a couple of players through injury and we've had a few setbacks. 

"The players had to rally around one another. It wasn't our best performance by any stretch of the imagination. There's still plenty of room for improvement in the performance. 

"I think the players showed their character and no one more so than Ciaran Kilduff. He'd been ruled out really early in the week and insisted on playing and got the winner. That was a big goal for us so we'll take that."

Dundalk held a two-goal advantage and remained resolute despite a late Rovers rally to secure all three points. The visitors were reduced to 10 men when former Aston Villa man Graham Burke was shown a red card for a lunge on Jamie McGrath.

"You can easily get caught up in all of that. You can't underestimate the value of discipline and not getting players sent off is important to us. 

"We could have done better in the last 10 minutes, you know 11 against 10. We gave the ball away and had Patrick McEleney and Robbie Benson hobbling. 

"We weren't quite right and it wasn't our best performance but the goals were well taken and we had other chances. Overall I felt we we deserved a win."

Asked whether or not the performance laid down a marker to other team this season, he said: "I think there's areas that we need to improve in. The fact that it was a pressure game really for us coming back and missing quite a few players, some of whom haven't trained fully this week.

"Stephen O'Donnell and Michael Duffy didn't train properly finished this week because of niggles. They manager to get themselves out there. Ciaran Kilduff didn't train at all.

"The fact that we managed to win the game speaks volumes for the players.

"They rallied around each other and even though it wasn't our best performance, we did enough to win the game."