Dundalk need just a point to seal what would be a fourth league championship in five seasons when they welcome managerless St Patrick’s Athletic to Oriel Park this Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm).
The Lilywhites still remain on course for an historic double, thanks to Patrick McEleney’s sublime strike which was the only difference in last weekend’s FAI Cup semi-final win over battling UCD.
“It was a tough game against UCD last week,” McEleney told the club’s official website.
“It was a tough one but we expected it. They play good football and they made us work for it. It was difficult for us and we knew we would have to play well to get through.
“It’s credit to UCD. They gave it a proper go as well and that made it a great game. They play open and tried to make it open but thankfully we got through it and we are into the final.
“It was one of my more important goals too. I am over the moon to get it and I am happy with how I am playing at the moment. Hopefully I can continue that.
“I have had disappointments in the FAI Cup in the last couple of years. I want to get it right. We are happy to get into the final and I am happy that I have contributed.
“Since I have come back all that anyone has been talking about is winning and we have that in our sights now.”
Having all but sealed title following a 3-2 win over Derry City in their last league outing, a point for Dundalk against St Pats would confirm a 13th League of Ireland crown with three matches to spare.
“We have to get over the line in the league first before we do anything. Pat’s are a good side and we know they will come here trying to win the game but we know what we have to do,” added McEleney.
“We have to go and do our job and get things done. Hopefully we can get the win and do it in front of our own fans.”
Dundalk have no major fresh injury worries coming into this fixture, but Sean Hoare and Jamie McGrath are slight doubts to face their former club with respective hamstring and groin problems.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC
Life without Liam Buckley begins for St Pats as caretaker manager Ger O’Brien takes charge of his first league match in what promises to be a baptism of fire at the home of champions-elect Dundalk.
Buckley’s departure from the St Pats dugout means that Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny, who was appointed in November 2012, is now the longest serving manager at a single club in the country.
“Dundalk have been very good this season and having seen them play recently, they have been impressive on their way to claiming this year's league title,” O’Brien told the club’s official website.
“We know it will be a tough game against them in Oriel Park and we will need to be at our best to get a result.
“We have four games left this season and the aim will be to try and pick up as many points as we can. That starts on Friday night against Dundalk.”
St Pats, who are still aiming for a top-half finish, will be without the suspended Dean Clarke and Darragh Markey for this visit to Oriel Park, while Christy Fagan remains a long-term absentee
Referee: Robert Harvey
A win for Dundalk would be their 26th in the league this season. The Lilywhites have never won that amount of games in a league season with their previous best being 25 wins in the 2016 campaign.
Dundalk haven’t lost a home league fixture to St Patrick’s Athletic since Stephen Kenny took over as manager in 2013. Dundalk have won seven and drawn one of those eight matches at Oriel Park.
This will be 211th competitive meeting (sixth this season) of both clubs since their first ever encounter in the Leinster Senior Cup final of 1950 – a match in which Dundalk emerged 2-1 winners.
Dundalk 1/3; Draw 4/1; St Patrick’s Athletic 8/1
Dundalk 2-0 St Patrick’s Athletic
Injured: Karolis Chvedukas, Stephen O’Donnell.
Doubtful: Sean Hoare, Jamie McGrath.
St Patrick’s Athletic
Injured: Christy Fagan.
Suspended: Dean Clarke, Darragh Markey.