With the celebrations still in full swing around him at Oriel Park after Dundalk’s title-clinching 3-2 victory over Shamrock Rovers on Monday night, Vinny Perth took the opportunity to reveal that replicating Derry City’s unique 1989 treble was something he and his players had consciously set as a target at the start of this season.
With the job two-thirds done now - the League having been added to the EA Sports Cup secured in a penalty shoot-out against Derry – the champions will attempt to take the penultimate step in making their own history when they travel to the Showgrounds to take on Sligo Rovers in the second FAI Cup semi-final tomorrow.
The Bit O’Red have been one of the few teams this season to experience joy against the all-conquering Lilywhites, drawing 1-1 at Oriel Park on the league’s opening night in February and winning 2-1 at home in April, one of only two times the champions have tasted defeat in the league. However, by the time the two sides met again, first in May and then in September, the Lilywhites were well into their title stride, winning 4-0 and 2-0 respectively.
But, overall, Vinny Perth has seen enough in Liam Buckley’s team to expect that his side will have its work cut out to keep the treble dream alive in the north-west tomorrow.
“They’ve done really well there, Liam is building a club there and the challenge for us is that being away from home after the high of the other night, that’s going to put extra pressure on us as well,” said Dundalk’s head coach.
“The first night of the season I think we had over 70 per cent possession and 30 odd shots but up there (in the 2-1 defeat) they hurt us with the two up front and they made it difficult for us. We weren’t in good form, confidence was low at the time and they were very, very good.
“But we were up there again not that long ago when we were close to our best (in a 2-0 win) so we have to reach that level again if we are to get through to the final.
“It’s a massive goal for the players but we’ll have a crack off it.
“I believe the Showgrounds will be hopping, it’s going to sell out I believe, so that will give them a boost in a semi-final tie.”
Indeed, confirmation came yesterday that the match is officially a sell-out, with Sligo expecting their biggest crowd at the Showgrounds in over five years.
“It’s going to be a difficult tie for us but we have been away to Cobh, Waterford, Derry already so if the players are going to do it, they are going to have to do it the hard way,” Perth added. “And I think the bunch are ready for that.”
Speaking this week, Buckley conceded that, even with home advantage, his Sligo side would be seen as underdogs against the best team in the country.
“They’re a top team,” said the experienced manager.
“They’re at a slightly different level to where we are, along with Shamrock Rovers. Those two clubs would have greater resources.
“But we’ll have 11 players out on the night and if our players are organised collectively and driven, we’ll give ourselves a chance.
“We’re going to have to put in a shift but we have to believe we’re going to do it. I do believe we’ll do it and we have to have a mentality across the board to say ‘let’s get at it’.
”The Cup is on the day. You need a bit of luck and hopefully we get it on the day.”