Dundalk FC return to domestic action following the mid-season break by hosting rivals St. Patrick’s Athletic at Oriel Park on Friday night.
The hosts will be looking to bounce back from their first defeat in eight league matches following Cork City’s single goal victory over the Lilywhites at Turner’s Cross two weeks ago.
Since then, Stephen Kenny’s side have spent time in a remote area of Southern Portugal in preparation ahead of what promises to be a thrilling title run-in, a race which was blown open in Cork earlier this month when the Rebels cut Dundalk’s lead a single-point thanks to Stephen Dooley’s goal.
Dundalk will also be buoyed by Monday’s UEFA Champions League draw which saw them pitted against Icelandic champions HK Hafnarjordur. The fact that the Lilywhites avoided seasoned European campaigner’s in Glasgow Celtic, their conqueror’s in last year’s competition BATE Borisov and FC Copenhagen offers the club a great chance of progressing to the lucrative third qualifying round of the tournament.
Ahead of Friday’s match Stephen Kenny typically veered on the side of caution as he talked up the abilities of the St. Pats team, while urging his own troops to seize the opportunity and “to hit the ground running.”
Kenny told dundalkfc.com: “It’s a very important game for us on Friday night. The first game after the break is an important one and we want to make sure that we get the win. St. Patrick’s Athletic have got good players but we have to make sure that we hit the ground running.
“We have prepared well for the match and we are ready to get back to winning ways.”
Fit again striker Ciaran Kilduff, a former Saint himself, echoed the sentiments of his manager: “Friday is a very important game for us. We had a disappointing result before the break losing to Cork City down there and that isn’t what we wanted.
“It was a frustrating night for us but we want to put that right at Oriel Park against Pat’s. We want to get back to winning ways. We are at home and we want to keep our good form going here.”
ST. PATRICK’S ATHLETIC
Liam Buckley takes his St. Pat’s side up the M1 to Oriel Park to face champions Dundalk FC tomorrow night looking to atone for the two consecutive Dublin derby poundings that they received prior to the mid-season interval.
The Saints were hammered 5-1 by Bohs, before defeat to Pat Fenlon’s Shamrock Rovers six days later left St. Pats facing an uphill task to achieve European Qualification, and 15 points behind tomorrow night’s opponents, Dundalk FC
Buckley will be able to draw comfort from the fact that he watched his side knock the Lilywhites out of the League Cup at the Carrick Road venue earlier this term though. Rory Feely’s 115th minute goal forced the Inchicore natives into the next round at the Lilywhites’ expense.
In their prior league meeting on Holy Thursday, Dundalk inflicted St. Pats’ heaviest home league reversal this season by defeating them 4-0 at Richmond Park. Goals from Stephen O’Donnell, David McMillan, Daryl Horgan and Brian Gartland left St. Pats reeling at the full-time whistle as the then visitors cruised to victory with arguably their most complete performance of the league season.
Although, St. Pats supremo Buckley has been on the end of the ‘Buckley Out Brigade’ following performances which have been by his own admission, below standard, he remains focused on getting something from the border venue tomorrow night.
When speaking to stpatsfc.com before Friday's league game, Saints' manager Liam Buckley outlined that both players and management were looking to getting back to work in the league following the break.
"The break came at a good time for us as we'd a busy schedule with cup games and league games coming on top of each other so it was good for the players to recharge the batteries.
"We're all focused now though on facing Dundalk which we know will be a really tough challenge. They played very well in Inchicore early in the year so the players know they have to be at their best. If they can perform to the best of their ability and fight for every ball from the first to last minute, we can get a result as we proved when we won there in the EA Sports Cup only a few weeks ago."
This will be the 203rd meeting between the sides and Dundalk have a slight upper hand. The record reads – P202; W84, D46, L72. In league affairs, the margin is even tighter with Dundalk having just a sole victory more than St. Pats.
Out of the 202 matches, Dundalk have managed to keep 59 clean sheets.
Dundalk have five former St. Patrick’s Athletic men in their squad – Darren Meenan, Gary Rogers, David McMillan, Sean Gannon and Ciaran Kilduff, while St. Pats have no former Oriel Park favourites in their squad.
Dundalk FC 2/5; Draw 10/3; St. Patrick’s Athletic 7/1.
Dundalk FC 2-1 St. Patrick’s Athletic
Suspended: Chris Shields.
St. Patrick’s Athletic:
Injured: Jack Bayly
Doubtful: Conor O’Malley, Keith Treacy