Dundalk could secure a second trophy to join the EA Sports Cup at Oriel Park within the next week but head coach Vinny Perth is refusing to look beyond Friday’s trip to face Waterford FC in the RSC (kick-off 7.45pm, live on RTÉ Two).
A win over Alan Reynolds’ side, who the Lilywhites beat 3-1 in the FAI Cup at the same venue last Monday, would mean that the Lilywhites can retain their Premier Division title by beating Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park on Monday night (kick-off 7.20pm, live on RTÉ Two).
While that would be a dream scenario for many supporters, Perth is unhappy with the timing of that game and refuses to speak of it with Waterford on the horizon first.
“I don’t like the idea of that Monday night fixture or talking about it and I’ve said that before because I’m in no way, shape or form going to disrespect Waterford or Alan Reynolds or the job he’s going to do.
“They’ll be going all out to beat us. We’re really focused on that game. I’m not focused on the Monday night yet. It’s just about getting the job done.
“We have still a bit of work to do. We’re into the business end of the season now and the squad is a little bit fragile believe it or not.”
Despite a 27 game unbeaten run domestically, Perth said after the 6-5 penalty shoot-out win over Derry City on Saturday that injuries in certain areas were catching up with his side.
“We were the dominant side but just did not create enough chances. We were probably short of attacking options, the games have caught up on us and we had four defenders on the bench.
“We would like to have a bit more about us in our attacking play.
“The injuries have hurt us a little bit. Jamie (McGrath) has been struggling lately and we have been sort of flogging him a bit so he emptied out. The two up front didn’t really work for us and I’ve got to look at it. That probably lies at may door a little bit because we probably went there a bit early but we just lacked a little bit of cutting edge in the final third,” he said.
Despite that Perth is hopeful that there will be no slip-ups given how experienced the players are at his disposal.
“We’d like to think we won’t slip-up but we can’t really celebrate tonight. We need to move on from this game and that’s the problem with the League Cup being played in mid-season.
“It’s one of them where the guys have to recover tomorrow and prepare for a big weekend ahead. That takes away from this a little bit but as I said to the players that’s the price of success and you’ll get your time when the time comes to enjoy it.”
While the 43-year-old said he didn’t view the EA Sports Cup as his first trophy with Dundalk, having enjoyed numerous successes alongside Stephen Kenny, he admitted victory at the Brandywell was a little bit special.
“It’s probably more special for the likes of my family and people who are close to me who have supported me over the 15 years that it took to get to this stage between coaching and managing at lower levels and then obviously getting the chance with Stephen seven and a half years ago.
“I feel as a group we’re all part of this and this is a great night for the team and the club as opposed to me personally.
“There is no doubt that the owners of the club have given us a certain strength in depth in our squad that allows us to go after this competition.
“It’s one of the three competitions in our League and we have gone after it. But we have had Lido Lotefa and Dylan Hand in the first round away to St Pats so they played their part in it as I said to them before the game so I am very proud of the whole group and the whole club. We have won this cup the hard way, there’s no doubt about that.
“I do believe this group is coming of age. You’re starting to see the emergence of Daniel Cleary, Daniel Kelly and Jamie McGrath who is becoming a senior member of the squad. We’re starting to see a change in the squad and the emergence of more leaders.
“People have said we probably lack a couple of leaders in terms of the fact we’ve lost big people out of our dressing room over the last couple of years but the key to our success is we keep developing new leaders and I think we’re starting to do that,” he said.
Perth admitted that two big penalty shoot-outs this year were not good for the nerves.
“No and in both of them there were big penalties taken, Jamie McGrath in Latvia and Sean Hoare tonight to keep us in the tie.
“Without disrespecting Derry, I feel like the right team won in terms of our attacking play but once it goes to penalties it is a lottery and we’re lucky to win the tie in the end.
“It swung both ways but I just hope that with the packed venue here, live on television, the penalty shoot-out and the drama that came with it with the sending off and other things that it was a good spectacle. That’s the most important part of a cup final, that people watching in on a Saturday night got something out of it because Irish football is in the doldrums and we do need to cheer people up and let them have something to enjoy,” he said.