Friday’s President’s Cup match against Shamrock Rovers might be little more than a glorified friendly but Dundalk team manager Shane Keegan is hopeful his side can win it to set them up nicely for their league opener away to Sligo Rovers eight days later.
The game at Tallaght Stadium (kick-off 7.45pm, live on WATCHLOI) will be the third and final match played by the Lilywhites as they prepare for the new season.
While there is greater prizes ahead than the President’s Cup, Keegan is well aware that a win over last year’s league winners would do the side no harm in preparing for their trip to The Showgrounds on Saturday March 20th.
“If we could go into the Sligo game with three from three it would be a great position to be in even if they’re only all friendlies,” he said.
“At the same time the performance is probably the most important. Avoiding injuries and getting match fitness into lads is another main priority. If you can tick all three boxes happy days but we just need to keep doing what we’re doing and hope we can get more of what we’ve had in the first two games.”
Keegan admitted the two matches up until now were less than the squad would have liked but is nevertheless confident they can hit the ground running having put in the hard yards in training as well.
“Because we’ve had a shortened pre-season in terms of game time, normally your first two friendlies you’re slowly bedding yourself but we don’t have five or six friendlies to slowly bed ourselves in so we had to hit the ground running last week as we did. It was the same again this week and again next week we need to leave everything out there during those three games to get ourselves where we need to be for the Sligo game.
“There’s no room to start slow which is why we’ve been doing so much in training in fairness as well.
“There’s a massive amount being done in training in terms of the tactical work and bedding down the foundations of what we want to see the lads trying to do and even in-house games. Right, we might have only had two friendlies in terms of playing opposition teams, but we’ve had to bring in U-19 players to make sure we can do 11v11 stuff in training as well.
“If we can get similarish out of next week as we’ve got out of the first two I think we’ll be at the level that we need to be for the opener,” said Keegan.
Meanwhile, the 39-year-old is hopeful that some of the club’s injured stars – Brian Gartland, Daniel Kelly, Cameron Dummigan, Michael Duffy, San Murray, Sonni Nattestad and Ole Erik Midtskogen – will be back in contention for the trip to Tallaght on Friday.
“Yeah, I’d like to think some will be back or maybe be ready for the bench next week to get 15 or 20 minutes and then maybe push harder then for the first league game.
“They’re kind of all there or thereabouts. There’s maybe six out at the moment but it’s kind of hard to put your finger on which two might not make the opener against Sligo. The chances of all six being back are probably slim but we’ll see.
“We had to pull Sonni late enough today so he nearly made it. Cammy too is very nearly there. Mickey Duffy was moving really, really well in individual training yesterday so he is going to be there or thereabouts. Garts was out getting a bit done before the start of this so they’re all kind of getting there.
“Sean Murray is maybe struggling a slight bit more than the rest but they’re all kind of getting there and I’d think we’ll probably only be a body or two down for the Sligo game,” he said.