Dun­dalk bid to grasp op­por­tu­nity to close on Cork

Irish Examiner - Sport - - SOCCER - Liam Mackey

Should they pre­vail against Bray Wan­der­ers at the Carlisle Grounds tonight, Dun­dalk can at least cre­ate the tem­po­rary il­lu­sion of a two-horse ti­tle race at the top of the SSE Air­tric­ity League Premier Divi­sion.

Vic­tory for the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons would cut Cork City’s lead to 12 points but, of course, the Leesiders — who along with Sham­rock Rovers and Derry have been in Euro­pean ac­tion this week — would still have two games in hand with which to restore, if they can, their cur­rent 18point ad­van­tage.

Still, for their visit to third­placed Bray, the Li­ly­whites will feel con­fi­dent about clos­ing the gap a lit­tle on the back of an impressive run since the mid-sea­son break.

“It has al­ways been the plan to win the games im­me­di­ately af­ter we came back,” says mid­fielder Chris Shields. “We wanted to get on the front foot early in the sec­ond half of the sea­son. We had a bit of a dis­ap­point­ing first half of the sea­son but we have come back well and that is three games, three wins and three clean sheets. We want to keep it go­ing now.”

Stephen Kenny has a full squad to choose from, Bray will be with­out sus­pended duo Tim Clancy and Derek Fo­ran.

But man­ager Harry Kenny is heart­ened by his own side’s re­turn to form.

“Our two re­sults af­ter the mid-sea­son break have been very sat­is­fy­ing with a good 3-2 vic­tory at home to Derry City and an ex­cel­lent 2-1 away win in Gal­way last Fri­day. These re­sults were very im­por­tant af­ter our in­dif­fer­ent run of form prior to the break. Dun­dalk come to the Carlisle in very good form scor­ing twelve goals in their last three games and seem to have re­dis­cov­ered the form that brought them all that suc­cess last sea­son. We will have to be at our very best if we’re to achieve a pos­i­tive re­sult.”

Dun­dalk last night con­firmed they have com­pleted the sign­ing of Dy­lan Con­nolly from this evening’s op­po­nents.

In a big clash of the bot­tom two, St Pa­trick’s Ath­letic host Gal­way United at Rich­mond Park, with Liam Buck­ley know­ing the stakes are high.

“We’re head­ing into this game know­ing that the onus is on us to take the ini­tia­tive,” says the Pat’s boss. “Gal­way are a good side and have picked some good re­sults this sea­son, so we’d ex­pect them to come to Inchicore and re­ally test us.”

For the home side, Kur­tis Byrne (ham­string) will get a late fit­ness test but skip­per Ian Ber­ming­ham (sus­pen­sion) and Dar­ren Den­nehy (an­kle) miss out.

“It’s a huge game for both sides,” says Gal­way man­ager Shane Kee­gan, for whom Ga­van Holo­han is rated doubt­ful. “The fact that they’re the home team, they prob­a­bly feel they must win. With us be­ing away, we prob­a­bly feel like it’s a must not lose game, although ob­vi­ously the in­ten­tion is very much for us to go there and try and win it.

“There is no­body un­der any illusions about the game. It’s the start of a five-week run that’s prob­a­bly go­ing to de­cide where we fin­ish in the league ta­ble and it’s re­ally im­por­tant that we get off to a good start.”

Tonight’s only other Premier Divi­sion fix­ture sees Drogheda United at home to Lim­er­ick while, in the First Divi­sion, Shelbourne host Water­ford at Tolka Park and Wex­ford wel­come UCD to Fer­rycar­rig Park (8pm).

Un­less stated, tonight’s matches kick off at 7.45pm.

Chris Shields: Ea­ger to main­tain Dun­dalk’s mo­men­tum.

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