Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny believes his side still have work to do to regain the league title this season but knows they can take a huge step towards completing the job tonight by beating Cork City on their own patch for the first time since April 2015.
After John Caulfield’s side’s 4-2 defeat away to Bohemians last weekend, the Louth men can open up a nine-point lead at the top of the table with a win at Turner’s Cross. If they manage that then they could in theory secure the league title by beating Derry City at Oriel Park next Tuesday as that would leave them 12 points clear with four games to go but with a goal difference that would be at least +25 at that stage.
Kenny is wary of the wounded animal though and insists his side have to remain focused and give Cork the respect they deserve.
If they beat us it’s down to three points and we’ve then got a tough game against Derry on Tuesday so we’ve got to focus on this game and try to be positive.
“I do feel that players are really coming into form. There were some tremendous performances in Limerick and we want to take that into Friday.”
Asked about Cork’s defeat to Bohs last Friday, a game which he was at, Kenny said: “Well we’re not relying on anyone. We’ve always just focused on ourselves. Inevitably teams lose games but the fact we won 13 in a row means the players deserve any lead that they have.
“Of course, when your rivals lose points it doesn’t do you any harm but from our point of view we’ve just got to focus on trying to win the game and improving ourselves and getting better. We’ll be trying to win the game.”
While a draw would leave Dundalk on course for the title, Kenny vowed his side would be going out to beat the reigning champions this evening.
“We have to be positive,” he said.
“The reason we’ve been so successful is that we’ve been so positive and it’s not a time to change our game plan or mentality now. We’ve gone all over Europe and been positive in our approach.
I know teams in the past have set up for draws and got them when they needed them. I’ve seen it in my time as manager but we won’t do that. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that but that’s just not who we are.
Bar Karolis Chvedukas, who has been ruled out for the season, and long-term absentee Stephen O’Donnell, Kenny expects to have a full squad to pick from on Friday night.
“Sean Gannon hurt his hip flexor in the Limerick game but he’s had a few days off and he’s okay. We had a bit of a chest infection in the camp as well but we’re okay.”
Meanwhile, Dundalk CEO Mal Brannigan said he had no issue with Cork City issuing just 350 tickets to the league leaders for the away section of the ground even if it meant that many travelling fans had purchased tickets for other sections of Turner’s Cross.
“What can we do? Cork have given us an allocation of 350. That’s within their right because that’s the way they want the ground to be that evening. I’ve got no qualms about that or criticism of that whatsoever.
“I’m sure if it was the other way around then we’d want to sell as many seats at Oriel to our fans as possible and limit the amount of away fans. That might be from a safety perspective or an atmosphere perspective but it’s a big, big game and everyone wants to be at it.
“We’ve only been given 350 tickets and I believe we’ve done the best we can with regards to allocation,” said Brannigan.