Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth believes the quantity of matches in a short period of time is affecting the quality in the SSE Airtricity League.
For the second time in the space of four days, the Lilywhites maintained their position at the top of the table with a dramatic 90th minute winner over St Patrick’s Athletic on Friday night. That fortuitous goal from Sean Hoare came after Pat Hoban had scored a 96th minute penalty to see off Bohemians last Monday.
By his own admission, Perth feels his side were not at their best against Harry Kenny’s men but put it down to the number of games in a short period.
He also said it wasn’t helping the injury situation at the club with Patrick McEleney and Sean Murray both picking up knocks against Pat’s which make them doubts for this Friday’s visit of Sligo Rovers to Oriel Park.
Reflecting on the Pat’s win, Perth said: “It wasn’t the best game of football. I think Friday-Monday-Friday is affecting not just us but Pat’s as well.
“It was a pretty dour first half and we just looked a little lacklustre and so did they.
“I think on the balance of play we deserved it in terms of possession. We had numerous amounts of corners and that but at the same time we had to deal with the odd counter attack here and there because they were very threatening with their front two.
“We deserved to win. People will say we were lucky again tonight but I think we deserved two win the last two games, albeit we’ve won them in the 90th minute. I think we’ve got what we deserved.”
Pressed further on the number of matches recently, Perth said he hoped lessons could be learned going forward.
“For me, it’s not good for the league. Ourselves and Pat’s are better than we showed tonight. I was at Richmond Park on Tuesday night and I’ve been going there for the last 30 years and it wasn’t what the League of Ireland is about. It was dead and it was flat. People have just been constantly turning up for matches over this period.
“I think the clubs in our league, particularly in the Premier Division, are well capable of dealing with a 36 to 40 week window. The players certainly need it because both teams have picked up a couple of injuries there tonight. Friday-Monday-Friday creates a problem. We can’t do anything about it this year but we should certainly look to improve the quality going forward.
“I just don’t think it’s a good situation to be in asking players to play all these matches. We’ve played Cork away, which is a massive game for us and they’re probably still our biggest rivals albeit not in terms of league positions. Then we’ve played Bohs who are third in the league and trying to get back at us in terms of the league title race and then we’ve had to go again against Pat’s tonight and it’s difficult.
“You don’t mind that every so often but this is on top of weeks of Friday-Monday-Friday-Monday schedules. There’s just too much of it and we need to fix it.”
Perth also feels the 20 day break between his side’s trip to Finn Harps on Saturday June 8th and their next game away to Shamrock Rovers on Friday June 28th is unhelpful. That situation has arose after the home game against UCD, originally scheduled for June 15th, was postponed last week after the Students had Conor Kearns, Liam Scales and Neil Farrugia named in Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland U-21 squad for the Toulon Tournament.
“People say it’s good because it gives you a chance to get over injuries but you also lose your rhythm,” said Perth.
“You just want to play a game a week. People have had it over the last couple of seasons where if they go out of the FAI Cup early you miss two weeks but it’s just too congested.
“Not playing 20 days before we play Rovers just can’t be good and I can’t see a benefit in it. It just means we need to change how we train over that period and we may look at a friendly which is crazy to be looking at a friendly at this time of year.
“We might get an advantage when we play UCD because when that game is re-fixed they may have had two really difficult fixtures and then we play them but at the same time someone else might get an advantage depending on where the fixtures are put in. I think it has the potential to skew the league and I think we need to be careful. Waterford, when they play Rovers, is that after they’ve played Cork or been up in Derry? Again, it’s not fair on UCD.
“While it’s brilliant for these players to be involved and brilliant for our league to be recognised at that level, I think if we played a game a week on average with only the odd Monday night here and there I think we’d be in a better position than we are now.
“It’s not good but it’s nobody’s fault either. You have to respect Stephen’s decision to bring these players in and I think it’s good for our league. You have to respect the players wanting to play in this tournament but we don’t seem to have learnt enough messages from last season because injuries are catching up on every team.”
Having spent most of the season behind title challengers Shamrock Rovers in terms of games played, Dundalk have a chance to move three points ahead of them on Friday as Stephen Bradley’s side are not in action due to their game with Waterford being called off, also due to the Toulon Tournament.
“Again, it just shows you how mad it is,” said Perth.
“It shouldn’t be happening. If we get the three points it’s an advantage but it shouldn’t be that way and I don’t take any pleasure in it. It’s not something I’m cheerful about.
“I think Rovers should be playing next week if at all possible or if that game is off then it should be re-fixed for a sensible time.”
While a full diagnosis on Murray’s injury, which forced him off at half-time on Friday, had yet to be made Perth said he expected to be without the midfielder for the next couple of weeks.
“Sean is struggling. He felt a tightness in his hamstring. In that area we’re sort of struggling because Benson and McGrath are still a couple of weeks away. We won’t know until we fully assess it but it looks like it’s at least a couple of weeks’ injury.”