Dundalk face Cobh Ramblers for the second time in five days as they welcome to the Rams to Oriel Park on Friday night as attention turns to the first round of the FAI Cup (kick-off 7.45pm).
It's been a period to forget for the Lilywhites as Stephen Kenny’s side were left reeling following their exit from both the Europa League and EA Sports Cup in the space of just five days.
Thursday night saw Dundalk fall to AEK Larnaca in the sizzling Cypriot heat before losing to Ramblers in the semi-finals of the League Cup just four days later, albeit after making nine changes.
“We have had better weeks,” said goalkeeper Gary Rogers, who didn’t play in that shock defeat to Cobh.
“There’s no hiding from the fact that we were disappointed with the defeats in Europe, and then to go out in the semi-final of the EA Sports Cup, it is never what we want.”
“It’s over and done with now though and there’s nothing we can do about it. We have to focus on what’s ahead and we have to make sure that we are right for the rest of the campaign.”
Attention now switches firmly back to domestic matters for Dundalk, who are guaranteed to play at least 12 league and cup matches between now and the end of October, an arduous schedule for a team that’s still chasing the double.
“We are going to be busy. We have the league and the FAI Cup to play for. The league is the priority, always has been the priority for us.”
Rogers added: “We have been lucky enough to play in three FAI Cup finals in the last few years. We want to win as many games as possible in the league.
“That is where we want to go and getting to the Aviva Stadium for another final is an objective and we have to go get a result on Friday. We want to get through the rounds.
“We are in a good position in the league. We have two games in hand on Cork City but we are hoping to win those and put us back on top. We want to push on and see what happens.
“We will go into the game on Friday with a positive frame of mind. The cup games are always a one off, they are a challenge. Cobh will be full of confidence after Monday. It was a great win for them.
“We are a good side though and we want to put our best foot forward. We are at home and we want to go get the win and get into the next round.”
Dundalk will be without the injured duo of Sean Hoare and Patrick McEleney for this FAI Cup first round tie, while club captain Stephen O’Donnell remains a long-term absentee with a broken leg.
A valiant Cobh Ramblers stunned a lacklustre Dundalk side at St Colman’s Park in the semi-finals of the EA Sports Cup on Bank Holiday Monday to progress to their first ever major cup final.
Chris Hull – who just one month ago was playing non-league for Mayfield United – scored the game’s only goal 15 minutes from time to send Dundalk packing on a historic evening for Cobh.
“For the club, this is immense,” said manager Stephen Henderson.
“It’s our first ever national cup final. I thought that we might have needed a bit of luck to get through it but today we didn’t need any luck.
“It was pure determination, skill and organisation from our players. I thought we were better than them. Without the ball, our pressing was magnificent. When we had the ball, we created chances.
“It is a transitional year for us. We are looking for a superstar and I think we found a few tonight. Our league form hasn’t been great but this is our first ever final so we are taking this as a great season.
“It was a great finish from Chris Hull. He suffers from asthma and was struggling with his breath, but he wanted to stay on.
“We knew he was quicker than their centre halves so one good ball and he’d be through. It was down then to his composure and he finished brilliantly.
“It was very emotional. We have had a very difficult year on and off the pitch.
“There seems to always be something going on here but for the people who work, support and volunteer for the club it is a fantastic reward for them. That is what football is all about.”
Cobh have no injury concerns coming into this cup tie, although first-choice goalkeeper Paul Hunt is unavailable due to a family bereavement back in his native England, meaning Adam Mylod should keep his place between the sticks.
Referee: Robert Rogers
Dundalk haven’t defeated Cobh Ramblers since recording a 3-2 win at St Colman’s Park in 2006 – Philip Hughes scored a brace that night while Robbie Dunne was also on the scoresheet.
These two clubs haven’t faced each other at Oriel Park since playing out a scoreless draw in the First Division in August 2007 – Cobh subsequently went up as champions while Dundalk finished in third.
The first ever meeting between the sides also came in an FAI Cup tie back in February 1983 when Cobh – then a non-league side – defied all the odds to defeat high-flying Dundalk 2-1 at home.
Dundalk 1/16; Draw 15/2; Cobh Ramblers 18/1
Dundalk 4 - 0 Cobh Ramblers
Injured: Sean Hoare, Patrick McEleney, Stephen O’Donnell.
Unavailable: Paul Hunt.a