All eyes on cru­cial Cork show­down

SSE AIR­TRIC­ITY LEAGUE

The Argus - - SPORT - JAMES ROGERS MAR­CUS CAVAROLI

DUN­DALK are not in action this week but man­ager Stephen Kenny in­sists it is busi­ness as usual as they con­tinue to pre­pare for the crunch league meet­ing away to Cork City on Fri­day week.

The game on Septem­ber 21st at Turner’s Cross has been brought for­ward to 7.15pm to ac­com­mo­date TV cov­er­age on RTÉ Two.

Vic­tory in that game would be ‘sea­son-defin­ing’ ac­cord­ing to Kenny, as it would al­most guar­an­tee the re­turn of the league ti­tle to Oriel Park.

With two weeks to pre­pare for it af­ter Fri­day night’s FAI Cup win away to Lim­er­ick FC, Kenny ad­mit­ted that he would use the pe­riod to pre­pare for the crunch match with the reign­ing cham­pi­ons like a Euro­pean fix­ture.

‘We will treat it like that and make sure we’re ready,’ he said.

‘We had 13 straight vic­to­ries and then we lost to Rovers but we’ve re­sponded to that with two vic­to­ries. Now we’ve got to go to Cork and put in a big per­for­mance and try to get what would be a sea­son-defin­ing vic­tory.

‘It’s a bit un­usual to have two weeks with­out a game and it can upset your rhythm a lit­tle bit but we must not al­low It to. We’re not go­ing to over train ei­ther and we’re not go­ing to play a friendly be­cause we want to leave it and get our­selves right.

‘We’ll have a good train­ing week. We won’t be tak­ing our foot off the gas. We’ve just got DUN­DALK RFC’s Le­in­ster League team have just com­pleted their pre-sea­son prepa­ra­tions with a team-build­ing week­end at The Cur­ragh - and his­tory sug­gests it could be the fore­run­ner to a suc­ces­sive cam­paign.

The squad’s two pre­vi­ous such trips to the Kil­dare army camp both came at the start of years where they won ma­jor sil­ver­ware - the All-Ire­land Ju­nior Cup, Towns Cup and Le­in­ster League - and af­ter fin­ish­ing third last time out they’ll be look­ing to put in a stronger chal­lenge in Di­vi­sion 1A.

In par­tic­u­lar they’ll want to im­prove their home record af­ter los­ing four of their seven league fix­tures at Mill Road in to get the bal­ance right be­tween get­ting the level of in­ten­sity right in the ses­sions and not over­train­ing,’ he said.

Dun­dalk go into their mini-break on a high af­ter a 4-0 win away to Lim­er­ick FC on Fri­day and Kenny was de­lighted with the im­pact of the four play­ers brought into the side from the pre­vi­ous week’s league win at the Mar­kets Field.

‘I thought it was a bril­liant per­for­mance over­all. I thought we were ab­so­lutely out­stand­ing on the night. It was a good, com­pre­hen­sive win and that’s what we wanted.

‘It was a big week for John Mount­ney and Pa­trick McEleney com­ing back in and get­ting 120 min­utes in the Le­in­ster Se­nior Cup on Mon­day and play­ing a re­ally good 90 min­utes on Fri­day against Lim­er­ick. That will do their match fit­ness lev­els and their con­fi­dence the world of good. Ro­nan Mur­ray has made a very good con­tri­bu­tion over the last few weeks and been im­por­tant and of course Dane didn’t play last week but he’s get­ting back to form and play­ing well.’

Kenny was par­tic­u­larly ex­cited to see John Mount­ney back in action af­ter a frus­trat­ing year for him on the in­jury front.

‘John has had a very dif­fi­cult sea­son with in­juries,’ he said.

‘He did his me­dial knee lig­a­ment and then had a thigh in­jury. He can be an im­por­tant player be­tween now and the end of the sea­son. He is some­one that I value a lot and he looks like he’s im­proved this year to be hon­est. He is one of those who has im­proved grad­u­ally ev­ery year rather than dramatically but this year as a man and a per­son he is more con­fi­dent in him­self and that is be­ing dis­played in his per­for­mances.

‘He’s a good player and it’s great to have him ready now for the re­main­ing games.’

The man­ager also lav­ished praise on Ge­orgie Kelly, who scored Dun­dalk’s fourth on the night af­ter com­ing off the bench.

‘He is re­ally im­prov­ing all the time. He gives us a real phys­i­cal pres­ence. It’s im­por­tant not to be too de­pen­dent on any player. We were a lit­tle bit de­pen­dent on Pat Hoban but Ge­orgie has come in and scored a good goal against Harps and a good goal against Lim­er­ick.

‘He played 120 min­utes on Mon­day nights and in­cred­i­bly he cov­ered 15km in the game. He’s re­ally lead­ing the line well and his first touch is ex­cel­lent and get­ting bet­ter.’

Kenny also ex­pressed pride in the per­for­mance of his play­ers in their Le­in­ster Se­nior Cup de­feat to St Pa­trick’s Ath­letic the pre­vi­ous Mon­day.

‘Mark Traynor com­ing in from the U-17s is do­ing his Leav­ing Cert in the Marist and he did very well,’ he said.

‘There were quite a few young play­ers in the team but cru­cially the first team play­ers who needed to play got vi­tal min­utes and that was im­por­tant.’ the 2017/18 sea­son, and the visit of Gorey this Satur­day (kick-off 3pm) gives them a good op­por­tu­nity to get off to a win­ning start.

As­sis­tant coach MJ McKe­vitt is in up­beat mood about Dun­dalk’s prospects, hop­ing that lessons have been learned from last sea­son when they were in ti­tle con­tention un­til suf­fer­ing de­feat in three of their last four games.

‘Get­ting in the top four last sea­son and qual­i­fy­ing for the All-Ire­land Ju­nior Cup was the big thing - we won that com­pe­ti­tion the last time we were in it,’ he pointed out.

‘But it could have been a lot bet­ter be­cause it was there for us when we beat Ash­bourne [even­tual cham­pi­ons] in Jan­uary.

‘The league is your bread and but­ter, we’re look­ing for top four again this sea­son and I’d be very happy if we achieved that.

‘The first game is so im­por­tant in this league be­cause it’s all about mo­men­tum. It’s go­ing to be very tight and ev­ery point will mat­ter, but Gorey have a huge pack, they’re a phys­i­cal team and they beat us in the last game of the sea­son down there.’

High­lights of Dun­dalk’s pre-sea­son games were the 14-14 draw away to AIL club Malahide last week, and vic­tory in the an­nual Lock­ing­ton Cup game against CIYMS in Belfast, their first since the be­gin­ning of the decade.

But equally en­cour­ag­ing, ac­cord­ing to McKe­vitt, has been the blend­ing of young tal­ent into the squad.

The league is your bread and but­ter, we’re look­ing for top four again

‘A num­ber of last year’s Un­der-18s made their de­buts in Belfast and that’s what I’m par­tic­u­larly pleased to see. It’s what we need to do look­ing to the fu­ture, and we had 25 Un­der-18s train­ing the other night which is al­most un­heard of and bodes well.’

Wary of too much in­for­ma­tion wing­ing its way to Gorey in the next cou­ple of days, McKe­vitt de­clined to re­veal the names of two new backs who may fea­ture in Satur­day’s league opener, but he did say that two club stal­warts of re­cent years have moved on, in David Whately and Gearoid McDon­ald.

‘We’re look­ing to change the way we play, so the head coach Mike Walls will step in at 10 [from scrum half] and dic­tate the play from there.

‘Tier­nan Gon­nelly, our Player of the Year last year, will go to num­ber 8, sec­ond row Ben Mor­timer has come down from Done­gal and is do­ing very well, and we’re strong in the front row where we have three of the Le­in­ster [ju­nior] squad - Sean Ar­row­smith, Robert Far­rell and John Smyth.

‘And Enda Mur­phy has agreed to stay on as cap­tain this sea­son. He gells ev­ery­one to­gether and is a real fa­ther-fig­ure and I couldn’t speak highly enough of him.’

The Gorey game is fol­lowed by a trip to face old foes En­nis­cor­thy on Satur­day week and a tricky home game against Wick­low in round three, and also on the hori­zon is the first-round All-Ire­land Ju­nior Cup tie away to In­sto­ni­ans on Hal­lowe’en week­end.

McKe­vitt also ex­pressed the hope that Dun­dalk would give a good ac­count of them­selves in the Towns Cup this sea­son, hav­ing per­formed ‘very poorly’ in the pres­ti­gious knock­out com­pe­ti­tion since win­ning it in 2011.

Dun­dalk man­ager Stephen Kenny ac­knowl­edges sup­port­ers fol­low­ing the Ir­ish Daily Mail FAI Cup quar­ter-fi­nal

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