Dun­dalk out to break duck against Limerick



DUN­DALK man­ager Stephen Kenny is con­fi­dent his side are find­ing their rhythm ahead of a crunch week that will see them host Limerick FC at Oriel Park on Tues­day night be­fore trav­el­ling to face Derry City in the first game at the re­vamped Brandy­well on Fri­day night (both kick-offs 7.45pm).

Af­ter two score­less draws in their open­ing two matches at home to Bray Wan­der­ers and away to Sham­rock Rovers, Dun­dalk are al­ready four points off cham­pi­ons Cork City – who they wel­come to Oriel Park on Fri­day week March 9th.

With that match ex­pected to be a crunch game in the ti­tle race, even at this early stage, the Li­ly­whites boss has tar­geted a six point re­turn this week.

He doesn’t ex­pect any­thing easy though. While Limerick were many peo­ple’s tips to strug­gle this sea­son, the Shan­non­sid­ers have started well un­der new man­ager Tommy Bar­rett. They won their open­ing match 1-0 away to Sligo Rovers and looked like they would make it two wins from two at home to Bo­hemi­ans on Satur­day – a match at­tended by Kenny – only for a 90th minute goal from Eoghan Stokes to earn the vis­i­tors a share of the spoils.

‘They missed a great chance with Mark O’Sul­li­van to go two up,’ Kenny added.

‘They haven’t given up many chances in the two games. They’ve been very strong de­fen­sively with two hold­ing mid­field­ers in front of the back four. They haven’t given much away but for us I feel we’re find­ing our rhythm.

We can ap­proach the game with con­fi­dence on Tues­day and we want to go and put in a good dis­play and win the game.

‘Ul­ti­mately we’ve got to beat Limerick and then it’s a quick turnover for Derry.

‘If it’s the first game in the Brandy­well there’ll be a big crowd at it for their first home game. We had the first home game in Bun­crana last year. The open­ing of the stand is a big deal to the peo­ple in Derry so we want to go and make sure that we’re ready to play the game.’

Dun­dalk ex­pect to have Sean Hoare and Brian Gart­land back in the squad this week al­though it could be the Derry match on Fri­day be­fore they re­turn. Stephen O’Don­nell is also back train­ing but may not be risked this week.

Kenny ad­mit­ted some of his play­ers are a bit be­hind where they need to be but is con­fi­dent they will im­prove week by week and game by game.

‘Ev­ery­thing hap­pen­ing so late in the day (with the takeover) meant our re­cruit­ment was late as well. We’ve brought in re­ally good play­ers but some of them are be­low the level of fit­ness that they need to be at.

‘I think Sam Byrne is go­ing to be a very ex­cit­ing for­ward when we get him fit and Marco (Tag­ba­jumi) is a proven goalscorer in good leagues. Ob­vi­ously Pat Hoban is just com­ing back from in­jury as well but he was the first player at this club to score 20 goals since Peter Han­ra­han so he knows where the back of the net is.

‘We’ll be all right for sure but we just need to get the three points on Tues­day and get back to win­ning ways.

‘It’s not per­fect at the minute but I’ve watched both games back and I thought we de­served to beat Bray and we were the bet­ter side the other night against Rovers. We would have pre­ferred four points than two and that would have been a rea­son­able start but it’s a long sea­son so we just have to get our­selves ready for Limerick on Tues­day and Derry on Fri­day. We had a lot of good play in the game against Sham­rock Rovers and we had some good chances and we should have taken a cou­ple of them to be hon­est.’

Kenny ad­mits the fail­ure to beat Bray on the open­ing night has made his side’s start look worse than it ac­tu­ally is.

‘I thought for pe­ri­ods of the game we played quite well but we weren’t con­sis­tent over the 90 min­utes. We had pe­ri­ods of good play and pe­ri­ods where we fell be­low the stan­dards that we’d want. There were a lot of good things in the match.

‘We had six new play­ers, four and two who came on. Con­sid­er­ing what would have been es­tab­lished as our first choice cen­tre backs, Brian Gart­land and Sean Hoare have missed the open­ing two games, we’ve kept two clean sheets. Ob­vi­ously Daniel Cleary had an ex­cep­tional de­but. He only came in a week ago and was very, very good. The back four were good.

‘The mid­field gave us a good plat­form and Michael Duffy in the first half was re­ally raid­ing bril­liantly. He showed great courage, rid­ing tack­les with real flair but we just didn’t have enough cre­ativ­ity at times in that fi­nal third. We had some good chances but we didn’t take them.

‘Had we beaten Bray last week that’s a re­ally good point but be­cause we didn’t beat Bray it means we’re only on two points which is not what we would have wanted but it’s early days.

‘We’ve had a lot of things that have gone against us in pre-sea­son. We’ve hardly had a 0-0 draw for a cou­ple of years. We had one last sea­son and then all of a sud­den we’ve had two. It’s a quick turn­around and a good chance to ad­dress it against Limerick on Tues­day and Derry on Fri­day and we want to get back to win­ning ways.

‘We’re not far away I think from do­ing very well,’ he said.

Kenny was full of praise for debu­tant Daniel Cleary’s dis­play on Fri­day night.

‘It’s just one game but he was ter­rific. He couldn’t have had a bet­ter de­but re­ally. He could have scored maybe be­cause it was a great chance but that club, Crum­lin United hasn’t been too bad to us.

‘We got Richie Tow­ell and Andy Boyle from them and they’ve done all right and been good play­ers for us. He knows them well and fol­lowed their progress for a few years and he looks like he’s go­ing to be a good player for us.

‘You’d think with the changes at the back, like Stephen Folan and Daniel Cleary never played to­gether be­fore, that we’d be afraid of con­ced­ing but we haven’t looked like con­ced­ing.

‘We need to have more of a cut­ting edge over­all but we need to take our chances. In them games against Rovers and Cork you’re not go­ing to cre­ate loads of chances but you do need to be more clin­i­cal than we were. Hope­fully we can get back to win­ning ways on Tues­day.’

Mean­while, last sea­son’s U-19s cap­tain Jake O’Con­nor has joined Athlone Town on loan un­til the sum­mer with Kenny hope­ful of him se­cur­ing game time un­der Aaron Cal­laghan.

‘Jake was one of the best play­ers for the U-19s last year. He played a cou­ple of games for the first team and didn’t look out of place. He had just done his Leav­ing Cert last year and was in our team. He has started col­lege in Dublin.

‘It’s the anom­aly again where if you’re 19 and not play­ing in the first team there’s no matches for you. It must be one of the few leagues in Europe like that. All the other leagues have U-21 tour­na­ments and so forth. It’s not ideal but he has gone to Athlone just to get matches. The matches will bring him on and we’ll see how he gets on and re­view it in the sum­mer. He has a very good at­ti­tude,’ said Kenny.

Stephen Kenny isn’t pan­ick­ing de­spite Dun­dalk’s slug­gish start.

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