Dundalk FC return to action on Friday night with a chance to go eight points clear at the top of the SSE Airtricity League table when they travel to Tallaght Stadium to face second placed Shamrock Rovers (kick-off 8pm, live on eirSport).
By the time they take to the pitch against Stephen Bradley’s side it will have been 20 days since the Lilywhites were last in action in their 3-0 win away to Finn Harps in Ballybofey.
However, despite their recent inactivity head coach Vinny Perth believes the side are in a good place after a good couple of weeks training at home and abroad.
“The week before we went to Spain was a brilliant week because we got some extra work into our players and a couple of players who needed extra fitness work got it.
“Then we played a behind closed door friendly between ourselves fully kitted out. It was two 35 minutes of a half and the GPS reports from that game tell us we covered the same distance if everyone had played 70 minutes of a normal league game. That was a really competitive game and the two 11s really went at each other so I don’t feel we’ve missed out too much or that it will be a problem.
“We’re probably on a de-load week this week having trained really hard for two weeks. We’ve got to keep the players fresh over the next two weeks, which we will, but we’re exactly where we want to be.”
Jamie McGrath and Sean Murray are back in contention for the trip to Tallaght after recent injury lay-offs but the clash with Rovers is likely to be a bit too soon for Robbie Benson, who is also back in training having not featured since breaking his leg in the season opener at home to Sligo Rovers in February.
“It’s probably a bit early for Robbie because the others have played and trained up to a couple of weeks ago,” said Perth.
“It’s only a matter of time before he gets back on the pitch. Friday might be a bit early for him but he might get some game time next week.”
There are also doubts over the availability of Jordan Flores for the match while new signing Andy Boyle is not eligible to play until July.
Definitely out for Dundalk are defensive duo Daniel Cleary and Dean Jarvis but Perth feels his squad are capable of coping without the suspended pair.
“That’s why we’ve rotated the squad this year,” he said.
“We’ve had very little injury anywhere across the back. Dean had an injury at the start of the season that kept him out for about three weeks but other than that we haven’t had injuries. I think they’ve all played 12 or 13 games between them minimum so they’re in a good place.
“We have strength in depth in the squad, albeit you’d like the lads available we’ve known for some time that they’d be unavailable and we’ve prepared accordingly.”
Dundalk have a chance to open up an eight point lead at the top if they can beat Rovers but Perth says he will not be getting too carried away no matter the outcome on Friday.
“I genuinely don’t think the eight point lead part is important,” he said.
“Rovers could end up having six or eight European games which would mean a huge amount of games being called off or we could have that so I think the league is going to be skewed over the next two months and there will be games in hand here, there and everywhere.
“We may find ourselves behind because of games in hand or vice versa.
“I think it’s important that we’re on a really strong run at the moment so we just want to keep that going and see where that takes us. The players are hungry for success and winning every match so hopefully we keep that going,” he said.
Referee for Friday’s game is Rob Harvey.