Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth said his side would learn lessons from their FAI Cup final defeat to Shamrock Rovers and hinted that they are close to strengthening their midfield options ahead of next season.
While the game was ultimately decided on penalties after a 1-1 draw after extra-time, it was the winners who bossed proceedings as the Lilywhites struggled without the influential pairing of Chris Shields and Patrick McEleney.
Perth admitted the number of injuries in the centre of the field had been an issue for his side this season but hit out at the FAI for scheduling the league game with Shamrock Rovers — which Dundalk won 3-2 to clinch the league title in September — before the FAI Cup semi-final away to Sligo Rovers, where McEleney picked up a hamstring injury that has ended his season.
“We lost Patrick on Thursday,” said Perth.
“We knew he was out. Patrick got a grade two hamstring strain in the semi-final and that’s the one I’m sorest about. There were mistakes made on other things but putting that Rovers game on then was a bloody disgrace. I said it at the time and I challenged the league over the timing.
“We only played four games in the last month and you’re putting players in jeopardy. I accept players will miss out through injury but that’s the first player who has walked off a pitch with a muscle injury all season.”
Perth took responsibility for Chris Shields missing the final having picked up an eighth yellow card in a tie away to Cork City last month.
“There are loads of different things that could have happened differently. We’re not happy about it. It is what it is. I accept it but it has cost us.
Twelve months ago we were sitting here and it was a different FAI. The administration side of it needs improvement but the football on the pitch this year has been brilliant and I’m very proud of our players.
Perth admitted his side needs investment ahead of their bid for a third league title in-a-row next season.
“We’ve been decimated in the centre of midfield all season and if you want to sum it all up you just look at what happened out there.
“If everybody was fit it wouldn’t have been as big an issue but there’s no doubt midfield has struggled. That’s one of the areas where we think we can improve. There are areas of improvement in that squad and I’ve said that from the get go. Myself and (club chairman) Mike Treacy have spent the last month doing bits and pieces and we’re very close to fixing a couple of issues.
I was very proud to lead this club into this stadium today and be the head coach of what is a brilliant club and I’m equally proud leaving the stadium. It just didn’t go our way.
"We weren’t at our very best from an attacking point of view but to win a treble everything has to go your way and it just didn’t happen for us. We will take it on the chin and move on. Rovers deserve their day in the sun. Let them enjoy it.”