Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth feels his side will have to do things the hard way if they’re to realise their treble dreams this season.
This Friday’s league match against UCD in the UCD Bowl (kick-off 7.45pm) is the start of a run of five away matches on the trot for the Lilywhites.
Dundalk will also travel to The Showgrounds to face Sligo Rovers on Monday September 2nd before a tricky trip to face Waterford FC in the FAI Cup quarter-finals the following weekend (fixture details to be confirmed).
It’s then back to the Brandywell on Saturday September 14th for the EA Sports Cup final with Derry City (kick-off 8pm, live on eirSport) before another journey to the RSC to face Waterford FC in the league on Friday September 20th.
While a Cup weekend is scheduled for the weekend after that and postponed home matches against Cork City and Shamrock Rovers still have to be fixed, as things stand Dundalk will not play at home again until the visit of Derry City on Friday October 4th, some 38 days from today (Tuesday).
Speaking to The Argus after Monday’s draw for the FAI Cup quarter-finals, Perth said: “If we’re going to be successful this year, we’re going to have to do it the hard way.
“The League Cup has been UCD, Pat’s and Bohs and the FAI Cup has been equally as difficult in terms of the draw. We were four hours on a bus going down to Cobh in the middle of Europe, then up to Derry and now down to Waterford so if we’re going to do it we’re going to do it the hard way but I’d rather be in the draw and complaining about who we’ve got than not being in the draw.”
Despite the long run without a home game, Perth said he expected little sympathy from other clubs.
“There’s no doubt we’ve been criticised by certain quarters in terms of having games off but my understanding is that tonight’s game (Monday v UCD) is our seventh in 20 days so we can’t do a lot more than what we’re doing. It’s physically impossible.
“I don’t expect sympathy off anyone else. We are where we are and we’re there to be knocked at. It’s easy to knock Dundalk at the moment because that’s what happens when you have success but that doesn’t bother us in the slightest.”
A 117th minute goal from Georgie Kelly ensured Dundalk’s place in the last eight of the Cup on Friday night with a 3-2 win over Derry City at the Brandywell. While it was a tight affair on the scoreline, Perth feels his side were the better side on the night.
“I don’t believe it was overly tight,” he said.
“I believe we made a couple of mistakes but I thought we were outstanding and that it was one of our best performances of the season. We’re disappointed that we made it difficult for ourselves because we created numerous amount of chances and Peter Cherrie was outstanding on the night, albeit both goalkeepers have come in for some criticism.
“It was a real open game of football and very enjoyable but you have difficult ties over the years in these cup competitions and going away to Derry in the Brandywell is one of the most difficult I’ve experienced in the six or seven years I’ve been here.”
A trip to the UCD Bowl on Friday will be Dundalk’s second match against the Students in the space of four days. While they are currently without a permanent manager following Collie O’Neill’s dismissal a week ago, Perth says Dundalk cannot afford to take Maciej Tarnogrodzki’s side for granted.
“I don’t recall back to back league games against the same side, maybe after a cup, but it does add something to it and makes it more difficult,” said the 43-year-old.
“It gives the opposition something to build on after the first game, no matter what the result is. You’re fresh in their mind and any little bit of needle that might go on is fresh in their mind. You’d rather that it not be the case but to be fair to UCD this fixture is being played now because of their success in having players in the U-21 squad.”
Asked about UCD, who recovered from a 10-1 defeat against Bohemians to beat St Patrick’s Athletic 3-1 in the Cup on Friday, Perth said: “We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors but I’d have huge sympathy for Collie personally.
“UCD have been a brilliant club over the years and the fact they’re playing catch up at the moment is because U-21 call-ups meant they’ve had games called off. They probably developed more young players than anyone else in this country than anyone else over the last 20 or 30 years so who are we on the outside to criticise what they do on the outside. That’s their own business but I’ve a huge amount of respect for the football club and what they’ve done over the years.
“You don’t have to look any further than our own group over the last number of years because we’ve been heavily influenced by the students of UCD coming through. We’ve had Benson, Kelly, Kilduff and Finn to name but a few who have come through that system so I certainly wouldn’t have anything bad to say about that club. I’ve a huge amount of respect for them. Now they’re starting to build a new crop and we’ll have to be wary of them.”
Perth revealed that both Robbie Benson and Jordan Flores were close to a comeback and he said both would be a huge boost to the side going into the business end of the season.
“The heartbeat of any side is central midfield. I’ll probably be accused of making excuses if I go through what has happened there this year but we’ve had to get to where we’ve got probably doing things a little bit different than what we have done in the last few years but you’re starting to see the team now really starting to click.
“Robbie Benson is back on the training pitch and we’d like to think Jordan Flores isn’t that far away and Sean Murray is at a stage where he’s ready to play 90 minutes. We’re starting to see what we’ve always felt was in the group but this is the business end of the season so the more confidence that’s in the group the better.
“Robbie is touch and go for Friday and Jordan is probably a little bit longer because the longer you’re out the more likely you are to pick up something that is unrelated and that has happened with him where he’s had a minor setback but nothing that we wouldn’t expect after surgery on his thigh. Robbie’s one is just pain management. There’s nothing wrong with him as such other than he got a bang. Even running has been sore for him but it’s just badly, badly bruised. His is very close to healing itself but it has been for the last week. That has accelerated over the last day or two.”
While two games this week against UCD will be seen as formalities for Dundalk, Perth is taking nothing for granted.
“If someone offered us two 1-0 wins we’ll take it.
“It’s just important to get nine points or as close as possible to it this week,” he said.