What a night is in store for fans on Friday night at oriel Park, as three-in-a-row league champions Dundalk host last seasons runaway First Division champions Limerick FC. Limerick were extremely impressive on opening night when they trounced Sligo Rovers 5-1 at the Markets Field. Unfortunately their game with Derry City was abandoned due to floodlight failure but they will formidable opposition to Stephen Kenny’s men.
Dundalk themselves have started to season in inspired form, after successive victories over Shamrock Rovers and Sligo. The exceptional form of midfielder Patrick McEleney has captured everybody’s attention, however Dundalk have players all over the pitch who can contribute when needed.
Regarding team-news for the hosts, Gary Rogers is back in contention after recovering from a calf injury which has kept him out for the past four weeks while Stephen O’Donnell (thigh) and Dane Massey (calf) return to the squad having missed last weekend’s victory over Sligo Rovers. Chris Shields and David McMillan have resumed training after their osteos pubis and kneecap injuries respectively which kept them out of all pre-season. Seán Hoare remains out due to a groin injury and Shane Grimes is a long term absentee with a hamstring problem.
Stephen Kenny was full of praise for the Oriel Park crowd when speaking on the clubs website, “The crowd was electric in our first game of the season against Shamrock Rovers two weeks ago and were brilliant again las week. We would like to have that every week. We want that passion at Oriel Park every match. It was very important to us.”
“Limerick had an exceptional win themselves on the opening night. But we are at home. We want to capitalise on our home form this season. We want to bring our good form from the first two games into tomorrow night to get the victory.”
Thomas Stewart was a happy man after scoring in Sligo saying, “I think that’s the quickest one that I have scored. It was nice to do it on the debut. It’s nice to be back too. The lads did great in the win last weekend. You want to play your part though too, watching from the sidelines.”
“I am hungry to win and score goals. That showed last weekend when I came on. It was a convincing win for us and a great three points.”
“You wouldn’t think the numbers were down when you see a performance like last week but we have the squad to cope. I am delighted that I was able to play a part.”
“It was a convincing win. I know the strengths of the squad and the players that are here. I know the league and the players so that bodes well for us all. It has been a good start. A fantastic start to the season with two from two. The core of the squad is still here and has so much quality.”
Speaking about the task ahead tomorrow night, he said, “Limerick have had a good start themselves. A lot of teams will be pushing for the top. The games will be all competitive this year. Teams want to knock us off our perch when you’ve won three-in-a-row! We are prepared for that. We need to be wary of the other teams and Limerick are a good side but we will be ready.”
Brian Gartland said of the crowd and atmosphere, “We talk about it in the dressing room and it is a big difference. The crowd were fantastic the first night. They really drove us on. It was massive for us and hopefully it can continue. We want it to at least stay the same if not grow more.”
Team-news on the Limerick front has seen the club be without Shane Tracy (back), John O’Flynn (calf), and Dave O’Connor (hand) for the opening fixtures thus far, but Russell hopes to see progress on that front soon.
“We’ll know more in the next day or two how close we are. They’re all making good strides forward. During the week you’d want to see maybe more development in that, so it’s ongoing.”
Limerick boss Martin Russell speaking to the Limerick Leader said of Dundalk, “They’ve started where they left off last season, they’re the team to beat.”
“It is probably the biggest challenge in domestic football at the moment, to pit yourselves against Dundalk, but it’s one we want to have and we’re looking forward to. We’ll learn quite a bit from it.”
“They’ve represented the country on a European level at a very high standard, so they have our respect but we also want to go and see how good we can be against them. We’ll try this week to get everything in motion to give us the best chance of going there and doing well.”
“Everybody has respect for each other in the league. There have already been results that many people maybe didn’t see coming. Going through the course of the season, it’s survival of the fittest.”
“You’re going to have to have your group as strong as possible to get anything out of this league and it’s like that for everybody.”