Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth says lifting the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division title this Friday will be “something special” and has encouraged everyone to savour the moment.
Having wrapped the title up last month, the Lilywhites will be presented with the league trophy after this Friday’s final league game of the season at home to St Patrick’s Athletic in Oriel Park (kick-off 7.45pm).
While a lot of fans have turned their attentions to the following weekend’s FAI Cup final clash with Shamrock Rovers at the Aviva Stadium and the bid for a treble, Perth said it was important to enjoy trophy presentation nights and encouraged people to go ‘overboard’ in enjoying it.
“I’m really looking forward to that moment of being the head of this club lifting that trophy,” he said.
“That’s going to be something special to me. Not necessarily special to me but something that is really special to my friends and family. You move on as a person but they’re the ones who get almost as much out of it.
“It’s for people like Mike Treacy, who believed in me. What he done and how he believed in me this time last year along with Mal Brannigan, they’re people that will nearly appreciate that moment more than me because Mike put his neck on the block in that sense but I’d like to think that I’ve repaid him and the staff have repaid him.
“It’s going to be a very special night lifting that trophy and I genuinely can’t wait for that moment.”
Perth reiterated that fans shouldn’t take winning leagues for granted.
“I probably will go overboard when the trophy arrives because it’s a special moment and we shouldn’t take it for granted,” he said.
“The people of Dundalk shouldn’t take it for granted. They should really celebrate it and celebrate how good these players are.
“Seven years ago we were heading into a play-off as a club just to stay in the league but now look at us. We’re almost taking the lifting of the trophy for granted. I know no one is but I don’t want people to do that. I want us to appreciate the players, the club and everybody and enjoy the bloody thing and make sure it’s a part of the atmosphere around the ground.
“I know it’s a strange one because it’s not the glamour of a final game. It would have been great had we got it the night that we clinched it against Rovers but it doesn’t work that way. I just want everyone in the town to enjoy it. Kids should really be at that game and they should be seeing the stars and wanting to be like them in 10, 11 or 12 years time. I just hope there’s a huge crowd there,” he said.
It has been a good week for the club off the field with Patrick Hoban and Gary Rogers signing two and one year deals respectively to remain at Oriel Park. Robbie Benson is also expected to commit to what would be his fifth season at the club in 2020.
Asked how negotiations were going, Perth said: “We’re very close to a couple of other bits and pieces. Like everything it takes a bit of time but we’re very happy with what we have.
“We’re in a really strong position. We’re watching players ahead of next year as well. There’s a huge amount of work going on. This is probably the busiest time of the year for me. The last three weeks has probably been the busiest I’ve been all season because of planning and everything else that goes with it but the club is in a really strong position. It’s very structured and there’s a lot of chats and debates going on.”
Perth said it was “massive” to hold onto Hoban.
“It’s massive but I think he deserved it,” he said of the striker’s new two year deal.
“The fact he has our all-time goalscoring record in the club means that he has earned the right for a contract. The challenge for Pat now is to earn the right to get another one. I keep saying that to him.”
The 43-year-old was also full of praise for Gary Rogers, who will continue playing into his 39th year at least after signing a new one-year extension.
“It’s brilliant for him and he deserves all the credit that he gets.
“Again, I have to put it on the record but the work Mike Treacy has done on that deal for me over the last couple of weeks has been superb. When the club decided that Gary deserved to stay, Mike went and done the business. It was quite an easy one because Gary wanted to stay and we wanted him to stay so it’s a brilliant signing for us.
“The team has conceded 36 goals over the last two years and I’m not sure how many of them he didn’t play in but that’s a phenomenal record. Most teams concede that in one season but he has done that in two seasons. He has been the best keeper in the league for the last two years despite what teams of the year suggest.
“The fact he has won four trophies in the last two years and kept so many clean sheets, it’s probably my disappointment that he hasn’t got the recognition that he deserves but he’s just a brilliant person. His fitness levels are so high. I must say about Gary that he has got another couple of years out of his career because of the work that is done by the staff in this club. This year Graham Norton has pushed him to another limit. He’s never injured and he is fitter now than he ever was. It gives our players a chance to be able to play at a higher level,” said Perth.
Meanwhile, the head coach said he was hopeful of having Patrick McEleney and John Mountney back in his squad for Friday after they joined Stephen Folan and physio Danny Miller on a run in Glendalough on Friday.
“I just felt that the pitch was a little bit heavy so I made the decision that it was best to keep them away today and let them do their work today and tomorrow,” said Perth.
“If the Cup final was today, both of them would have been part of the squad. We expect both of them to be part of the squad next week along with Jordan (Flores). They’ll all get a chance between now and the Cup final to prove their fitness levels but we’ve got such a strong squad that they’ve got to prove themselves as well. We’re in a good place and again the medical staff have been brilliant in that sense.”
Perth also played down fears that McEleney would need minutes under his belt heading into the Cup final.
“It has literally been four weeks since his injury but he has been running for two. As I say, if the Cup final was this week he would have trained with the team. He has trained sporadically with the team but we’re just looking after him and protecting him.
“His cardio fitness levels are extremely high and because Patrick is a natural football, he’s not someone that needs to come in and find his rhythm so we’re very comfortable in that sense.”
Perth also said he wasn’t pressing any panic buttons after his side’s second successive defeat away to Cork City on Friday.
“We’ve earned the right to lose a game or two,” he said.
“We certainly didn’t deserve to lose that game. I’m very disappointed by the big call early in the game because it’s a penalty. It’s something we worked on with Daniel waiting to break. He has broke and got into the box and it’s just a charge through the back of Pat. It’s a penalty. We got criticised over our penalties at the start of the year but that’s a penalty and it should be given. We’ve struggled with that ref at times this year but we have to take that one on the chin tonight.”
Perth said it was a concern that his side had now been refused penalty decisions in their last three matches.
“They’ve completely and utterly dried up and it just shows you that people listen to the rhetoric around what should and could have been. If anyone can find a penalty this season that wasn’t a penalty, they’re going to struggle.
“There was one in Dalymount Park that was probably not a penalty but other than that, everything has been a penalty. We’re a team that is constantly in the opposition box, constantly attacking at pace and we should be getting more but tonight that changed the game I feel.
“We didn’t deserve to lose the game so I’m not overly disappointed. We’ve earned the right to practice stuff. This week we’ve trained really hard with the Cup final in mind and the Linfield game but Cork were up for it tonight. Their fans came to see the champions I think. It was a great crowd and a great reaction for them but I think we’re in a good place at the moment and I’m certainly not concerned about anything,” he said.