The faltering reigning league and cup holders have an EA Sports Cup final against Waterford United to come but tonight they will be looking to put their FAI Cup exit behind them when they take on Dundalk in the League of Ireland Premier Division at Dalymount Park (7.45pm).
Now four games without a win and protecting just that one-point lead over Shamrock Rovers, Pat Fenlon’s side will this evening be without midfielder Gary Deegan and goalkeeper Brian Murphy, both suspended as a result of red cards in the 2-1 defeat to Bray Wanderers. Defender Jason McGuinness is also out, having come off injured in the 2-1 cup loss to Sligo on Tuesday. But Fenlon expects defenders Owen Heary and Ken Oman to be available for selection after injury.
Defender Brian Shelley, named the Soccer Writers’ Player of the Month for August, insists his side’s early September dip in form is no cause for panic. “We’re still in a good position once we don’t get too down about the last couple of weeks,” he says. “If we were offered where we are now at the start of the season, we’d have taken it. It’s a tight league and it’s still in our hands – we’re top of the league and we’ve got a Cup final next week. We’ve got to kick on because there is still a lot of football to be played.”
As a former Dalymount boss, Dundalk manager Sean Connor knows better than most that his side must be wary of a backlash. “I would say Bohs are actually more dangerous now after losing on Tuesday,” he opines. “They’re the best team in the country and they’ll be keen to get back to winning ways, so we have to make sure we don’t suffer a backlash. We want to build on last week’s win (over Cork City) and if we can do that then it sets us up nicely for the rest of the season.”
Connor has selection worries for the trip to Dublin as Liam Burns, Michael Daly and Darren Mansaram are all suspended, while Kevin McKinlay and Michael McGinlay are doubtful with food poisoning and, for personal reasons, Paul McAreavey could be unavailable.
Derry City, just ahead of Cork City on goal difference in third place, will be without suspended pair Clive Delaney and Stephen Gray for their game against Drogheda United at United Park (7.45pm).
And with Sammy Morrow, James McClean and Kevin Deery all on the injured list, Shane McElhinney, David McDaid and Aaron Nash come into the squad for a game against the side just one point off the basement place.
In tonight’s other Premier Division game, the pressure is all on Jeff Kenna, manager of struggling St Pats, when he looks for a first win in three attempts against his former club Galway United at Terryland Park (7.45pm).
Both sides are hamstrung by injury and suspension, with the Tribesmen missing Dave Cooke, Cian McBrien, Sean Kelly, and Jason Molloy through suspension.
For Pat’s, Damien Lynch and Dave Partridge are suspended while Andy Harran, Jamie Harris, Garret O’Connor and Mark Quigley are all out injured. Better news for the Saints is the return of striker Declan O’Brien who was cup-tied for the shock defeat by Waterford United.