Dundalk FC can set a new club record if they avoid defeat against Shelbourne at Oriel Park on Friday night (kick-off 8pm, live on eirSport) but for new interim head coach Filippo Giovagnoli a winning start to his tenure is all that matters to him.

A win or draw against Ian Morris’ side would make it 26 league games unbeaten at Oriel Park for the Lilywhites, who haven’t tasted defeat on home soil in over two years now since a 2-1 loss to Shamrock Rovers in August 2018.

That would overtake the previous best run of 25 league games unbeaten between losing 2-1 to Limerick on September 27th 2013 and a 2-1 defeat to Bohemians on June 5th 2015.

The article as it appeared in The Argus on September 8th 2020

Informed about the record ahead of the game, Giovagnoli said his only desire was to ensure he marks his first league match in charge with a victory.

“I have to break my record and my record is to win my first league game,” he laughed.

“That’s the most important thing.

“I just want the team to perform and do well and then we can talk later about records.”

Having watched the reigning First Division champions on video, Giovagnoli – who took in a number of league matches at the weekend – is expecting a tough test from the Drumcondra men.

“Shelbourne is our next step. We’ve started to watch videos on them,” the Italian said after training at Oriel Park on Friday.

“It’s going to be another difficult game for us. I saw the game that they played against Shamrock (Rovers) and they’re a good team.

“They work together, they’re aggressive and they’re organised. It’s going to be another challenge for us but we’re preparing really well to play against them.”

The Italian said he was looking forward to his first home match in charge of the side but added it was disappointing there would be no fans there to cheer the side on.

“It’s super exciting but unfortunately we don’t have fans because I know that the atmosphere can be great here but we’ve to make them happy anyway even though they’re not here and cannot participate.”

With no game last weekend there were suggestions Giovagnoli would look to arrange a friendly but he quickly decided not to.

“We preferred to just train because we want to make sure that we arrive in the perfect shape for our next two games,” he said.

“To have another game now was something I didn’t feel was the best for us in our process. Because we didn’t have a pre-season with the team this felt like two weeks of pre-season and it was great.

“When you get a team during the season it’s not easy at all. There are players who had good relationships with the previous manager and I understand that because he was successful. I think he did a great job here but this is our time now. We have to accept this challenge and try to do the job as best as we can.”

Meanwhile, Giovagnoli is hopeful of having a full squad to choose from for the match with Shelbourne. Patrick McEleney and Cameron Dummigan resumed full training last week while the 49-year-old is also hoping to have Patrick Hoban (groin), Daniel Cleary (hamstring) and Greg Sloggett (foot) back in training this week.

“By the next practice on Monday, I think we’ll have pretty much everyone back. We have to check on someone but I think we’re going to be in good shape pretty soon,” he said.