Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth is hopeful of giving as much of his squad as possible a 90 minute run-out in their two final pre-season friendlies this week.
The Lilywhites were due to face Crusaders in Belfast last night (Monday) before welcoming Longford Town to Oriel Park tonight (Tuesday – kick-off 7.45pm) for their final pre-season game before Sunday’s President’s Cup final against Shamrock Rovers (kick-off 3pm).
Speaking after the 2-0 Malone Cup final victory over Drogheda Utd on Thursday, Perth said he hoped to use the two games to bring his players up to speed in terms of minutes played before the Rovers games.
“Ourselves and the 19s will have to use the games as minutes for the two teams because not everyone would be able to play but we’ve got to get people now playing the 90,” he said.
“A lot of lads have got close to 90 but, for example, our two strikers need to go for the 90 minutes. We’ve got our full backs with 90 minutes now more or less but Darragh Leahy needs to go up on his time on the pitch, the centre halves need to get 90 minutes and Shields and Sloggett have been close to it so it’s the perfect opportunity for us.
“You’d nearly rather play the two games in the one night but it’s physically impossible but these games are exactly what are needed.”
Despite leaving half a dozen players out of the match day squad against Drogheda, Perth said he is hopeful of having everyone available for the opening league match against Derry City on February 14th but conceded that he expected to pick up injuries between now and then.
“We’ve been monitoring an injury with John Mountney for a while now that he had at the back end of last season. We’ll have to assess that over the next couple of days whether we leave him out for a couple of weeks and just rest him completely but the medical staff are top class here.
“In pre-season you push people so hard. This is our third day in-a-row and you’d never play a match at the end of that. We just felt Andy (Boyle) was a bit sore after yesterday’s training so he wasn’t worth risking. Patrick (McEleney) was a bit sore after training the other day, again it wasn’t worth risking.
“They do more work with the physios here than they would playing a game ironically because they’ll be in the sea or up a mountain or something. We’re in a good place in that sense but we’re going to pick up injuries.
“At the moment it looks like everyone should be there or thereabouts for the Rovers game and certainly the Derry game. I’d expect everyone to be fit but we will get someone injured between now and then.”
Despite picking up a shoulder injury against CFR Cluj in Spain, Perth also said he expects Will Patching to return to action soon.
“Yeah, obviously he has got to test it on the training ground but it’s a minor injury. He’ll be back in four or five days.
“We had it X-rayed the following morning and he was fine. He was out of the sling in about 24-36 hours later and has full movement in it. The shoulder is fragile but there’s nothing wrong with it but we just wouldn’t put him into anything for another couple of days.”
Perth said he was pleased with the performance overall against Drogheda.
“I thought it was a really good workout,” he said.
“I suppose I expected us to be a little bit lethargic after the high of last week and then we trained Tuesday and Wednesday, two days in-a-row before a game, which we would never do. We trained hard because it’s pre-season so there was a little bit of a disjointedness about us which is fine and understandable but beyond that, I think for 70 minutes we created chance after chance after chance and the fact we didn’t take them is just the way it goes at this time of the year. That doesn’t concern me until we focus on that on the training ground.
“I’m very happy with what we’ve done over the last couple of weeks. I think from a fitness point of view we’ve been excellent so it’s now about working on those skills and making ourselves better technically.”
The 43-year-old once again experimented with three at the back in the first half on Thursday but while he feels it has been worthwhile trying, he admitted the usual formation would most likely be used in the next week or so.
“Part of our job has to be about educating our players about different systems and understanding the game. When we played CSKA the other day they played that system and our players knew it and understood it so it wasn’t something that was new to them. The difference was that we were able to adapt straight away because they knew the system.
“It’s part of their education and game understanding. The more we as a group improve players on all those different facets, I think they’ll get closer to becoming European players. It has been great for us and really beneficial.
“It suits some of our players and it doesn’t suit some of the others. What it does do is it allows you to have more players higher up the pitch but there’s obviously a certain amount of vulnerability about it in wide areas so it depends who you’re playing whether you’d use it or not but I think the players would tell you they’d like to explore it a little bit more but I think over the next week we’ll focus on what we’re good at and do that so we’re ready for the Derry game ultimately.
“You have to have something a little bit different, particularly for a game like tonight where a team comes up here and sits in. You can just throw a curve ball at them because they’re expecting Dundalk to go at them with their wingers flying. The other side of it is, if you’ve three or four injuries in key areas like we had last year, you can use it. So, for example, if we had three or four injuries with our wingers then we’ve got a new system we can go to so that is part of the thinking behind it but I’m happy with it.
“As I say we’ve got to test the players and throw something different at them. I think they’ve really enjoyed the experiment so far but ultimately we’re at our best when we get our flying wingers going and our full backs overlapping. I’m not trying to change that drastically.”
Jordan Flores has been a shining light for Dundalk in pre-season after an injury hit 2019 but Perth said he won’t be rushing the midfielder into action.
“I’ve got to be careful with Jordan at the moment because he has had such a bad year last year. It’s going to take him time to reach his very, very highest level that we believe he has but I think you can see at times coming off the bench that he has been outstanding.
“Starting the game over in Spain, he was just brilliant and European football probably suits Jordan but he has to be ready when that time comes around. Domestically it’s a bit more helter skelter and that’s the bit he can learn. His passing range is as good as anyone’s in the club. I’m really excited about him but at the same time we have to protect him and slowly but surely get him ready for what we need him to be.”
Perth said there was no further update with regard to potential signings.
“Nothing has changed. We’re still where we are. I’m really happy with the squad we have.
“Nothing is imminent but the window across Europe closes tomorrow evening. Ours is the 22nd February so we still have a couple of weeks if someone doesn’t get a move or becomes available and if that happens we’ll look at it. We’re really happy with the squad. We were obviously missing a bit of creativity tonight with Will and Patrick missing but from now I’m not sure anything mad is going to happen.”
He admitted, however, that the closure of the main UK and European transfer window would make it easier to attract players to Ireland.
“Of course it does (make it easier) because players can’t move and if they want to move there’s only certain clubs they can come to and certain leagues that are open to them. I’ll be offered 10-15 players in the next two weeks, that’s for sure.
“Whether they fit us or not is another thing. Unless someone is a level above what we have there’s no point in going for them. The squad is big enough,” he said.