Dundalk will hope to get back to winning ways when they entertain Liam Buckley’s winless St. Patrick’s Athletic at Oriel Park on Saturday evening.
The Lilywhites suffered defeat to Derry on Monday night, 3-1 at Maginn Park, with the loss being their first against the Candystripes in 14 matches.
Despite Dane Massey giving them the lead, on his return from two matches out with injury, the champions lost their unblemished league record and dropped to third in the table.
With this in mind, a win over St. Pats tomorrow night is essential with Cork lying in wait at Turners’ Cross next weekend.
And with St. Pats enjoying a rotten start to the season, Dundalk will be ultra-confident of getting back to winning ways tomorrow night, especially with the return of Sean Hoare alongside Gary Rogers, Chris Shields and David McMillan to full fitness.
“For the first time in four years we probably have had an injury crisis,” Stephen Kenny told dundalkfc.com in the lead up to Saturday night’s match.
“(With) Gary Rogers, Chris Shields, Dave McMillan, Stephen O’Donnell and Dane Massey all missing for the start of the season.
“So, if we could get 12 points out of 15 from the first five games with all of those players missing for a large part of it would mean a great start for us. The motivation is high for the game against St. Pat’s.”
Gabriel Sava will be hoping to retain his spot in the Dundalk goal but faces stiff competition from the now fit again Gary Rogers.
“What we must do is pay tribute to the loyalty of Gabby Sava. He is now in his fourth year of the club. He hasn’t always been first choice but has always been there as a support. He has come in and played in some huge games.
“Ok a couple of goals went in on Monday night but he has always been an important part of Dundalk Football Club. In league and FAI Cup matches since he signed for the club in 2014.
“People will be quick to criticise but he has been very loyal to the club. He could easily have moved but he wanted to stay with the most successful team in Ireland to prove himself and he has done well overall.”
ST. PATRICK’S ATHLETIC
By all accounts, St. Pats’ start to the season has been below par. Monday night’s loss to Finn Harps in Inchicore means Dundalk’s title predecessors are enduring their worst start to a season since Buckley took charge five years ago.
Buckley, typically honest, accepts that the start wasn’t what he expected and admitted as much when speaking to extratime.ie in the wake of their most recent defeat.
“We are struggling (to find) our ways, our routes and our patterns of play at the minute,” Buckley observed.
“We have to work harder and to make sure of what we’re doing. I’ve been there at both ends and when you’re winning you can’t see yourself losing, and when you’re losing it’s very difficult to see yourself winning.
“I feel we’ve enough in the dressing room to get points, we just need to get our performances better.”
The Saints will be boosted by Darren Dennehy and Aidan Keena’s availability, with both players having been sent-off in their opening night defeat to Bray Wanderers at Richmond Park.
Their returns hands Buckley a full-strength squad to pick from.
“Dundalk had huge success last year and we know that they are always a very strong team at home in Oriel Park,” the St. Pats’ manager said on the club’s website, www.stpatsfc.com, earlier on Friday.
“We both suffered defeats last Monday night so I imagine they’ll also be determined to bounce back.
“From our point of view, we know we need to improve on Tuesday’s performance. We’ll be looking to make a positive start and if we can do that, we’ll be hoping to give a good account of ourselves."
Referee: Graham Kelly
St. Pats haven’t won a league game at Oriel Park since August 2012, and none since Stephen Kenny took charge of the Lilywhites.
Between them, Dundalk and the Saints have won the last four league titles, three EA Sports Cups and the FAI Cup in two of the past three seasons.
Darius Kierans, St. Pats’ assistant manager, was the man at the helm of Dundalk when the four-in-a-row chasers narrowly escaped relegation in 2012.
Dundalk 1/3; Draw 7/2; St. Patrick’s Athletic 8/1
Dundalk 2 - 0 St Patrick's Athletic
Injured: Stephen O’Donnell (thigh), Shane Grimes (hamstring)
St. Patrick’s Athletic