Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth is confident the injured trio of John Mountney, Jordan Flores and Patrick McEleney will all be available for the FAI Cup final clash with Shamrock Rovers at the Aviva Stadium next month.
Flores, who turned 24 last Friday, hasn’t featured for the first team since playing the full 90 minutes away to Finn Harps on June 8th having picked up an injury on the club’s mid-season training camp in Spain.
He could make the squad, however, for this Friday’s trip to Dalymount Park to face Bohemians (kick-off 7.45pm) while Mountney – who has been sidelined with a foot injury for the last two months – is more than likely set to come back into contention for either the trip to face Cork City on October 18th or the final league game of the season at home to St Patrick’s Athletic on October 25th.
Perhaps the most touch and go of the trio is Patrick McEleney, who limped off with a hamstring injury in the recent FAI Cup semi-final win over Sligo Rovers, but Perth is confident of having all three available to him for the November 3rd final.
“All three of them, I’d expect them to be available for the squad for the cup final bar something going wrong,” said Perth.
“I’m very confident the three of them will be ready for the cup final.
“John is flying around and Jordan has trained for the last week. When you’re coming back like that you always pick up something else so he has a small niggle where we pulled him away for just another couple of days but Jordan will be ready over the next week or so. John will probably be another two weeks but he’ll play probably at least one, if not two league games between now and the end of the season to give himself a chance.”
Perth also admitted that work had begun on securing signings and re-signings for next season.
“We’ve done a huge amount on next year,” he said.
“We don’t stand still. We’ve done a huge amount of preparation and there’s a huge amount going on in the background in terms of our current squad as well. This is the business end of the season for that but that’s the unseen stuff.
“All the relevant people in the club are working really, really hard about how we can improve the club. My job is ultimately on the pitch but I think we’re doing a lot of stuff where we can improve the club on and off the pitch. Because of when we won it, last year we were probably chasing our tail a little bit but this year we’re in a really strong position and I’m really happy that we can be calm now and make good decisions.
“What we can’t do is stand still. If we stand still people will get closer to us. I expect players to leave and players to come in. That’s natural in any football club.
“There will be a couple of guys who aren’t that happy and they’ll want to go and play football and that’s understandable and I’d expect players to come in absolutely. We’re working really hard on that but because of where we are I don’t expect anyone to sign for another six to eight weeks when it’s closer to January.”
While the league title is already wrapped up, Perth said it was the “perfect scenario” to have a run-in against teams who all have something to play for in order to keep Dundalk on their toes ahead of the Cup final. After a 1-0 win over Derry City last weekend, that continues on Friday when they travel to face Europa League-chasing Bohemians at Dalymount Park.
“It’s the perfect scenario,” he said of the remaining fixtures away to Bohs and Cork City and at home to St Patrick’s Athletic.
“You’ve got to be good to the game and the game will be good to you. We’ve got to honour the league by doing our very, very best until the end of the season and it would be unfair of us to lose to one of them by making 10 changes and messing around with the team for the sake of the cup final.
“We’ve got to stay strong, try to win every game and give it our best and I think we’ve a standard in the club as well. That standard is set. It might go up and down to a point but it never goes off the richter scale and we seen that tonight. I thought we were at it to a point. We’d like to be a bit more intricate in our forward play but we were at it.
“It was a little bit flat tonight obviously, which is understandable, but it was a blanket defence and their two wingers went so deep to stop our full backs so we had to come up with a little game plan around that.
“I didn’t overtrain them this week so we probably didn’t overly focus on how to break them down so it was probably more from ourselves as opposed to the players tonight but it was a great night. We had two young lads coming on again and giving them great experience so I’m really happy with it bar the odd thing. I don’t think Gary had loads of saves to make so we were comfortable enough I think.”
While there is an obvious temptation to rest players, Perth said some need to keep ticking over.
“The problem is some people need a rhythm,” he said.
“Michael Duffy, for instance, needs rhythm and he’s not used to missing out. You can rest people for the sake of resting people but a lot of them play their best football with rhythm. Robbie Benson needs minutes at the moment. If he’s going to be in the Cup final and has to go to the well then he has to show it out here and I think he done that. It was a real, real strong performance from him tonight, not necessarily how good he was on the ball but I just thought his leadership skills were very evident and that’s something we missed in the midfield a lot this year.
“It was also good to see Sean Murray get more game time. He’s starting to look like he can gret around the pitch very well. Brian Gartland and Andy Boyle also needed game time so I’m very happy with that,” said Vinny.