Gannon: Transfer talk will not distract Dundalk players
The Dundalk players are in an unusual position and they appreciate that.
This is normally an uncertain period of the year where they are going without pay while they make big decisions about their own future.
European commitments have kept them under contract at Dundalk until December and Stephen Kenny admitted yesterday that preparing for huge matches while trying to re-sign players does present a challenge.
The confirmation that the club have gained control of the lease on Oriel Park and can make overdue improvements is good news in that regard, although bigger doors have opened for the squad.
International calls for Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle have increased transfer speculation and a variety of scouts will be present at Tallaght for tonight's meeting with AZ Alkmaar.
But defender Sean Gannon - another player who has impressed in Europe - says that the opportunity to make the round of 32 is the primary focus.
"With the magnitude of the games we have left, players don't want to be distracted and take their eye off the ball," he says.
"We're playing against top opposition that if we're not on top of our game, they will turn us over. We need to stay focused, even if things are being said about players in our squad going places or whatever.
"As players, we go into training and focus on the job in hand. We play at Dundalk and we are all contracted to Dundalk. We love playing there. We have a great team, a great staff and it's a great club.
"For us to achieve more than we've achieved already, we'll keep our heads down for the games that are coming up."
Fringe squad member Darren Meenan will not be a part of the panel after the announcement that he has signed a pre-contract agreement with Shamrock Rovers.
He was unlikely to feature anyway and Kenny did not wish to say a bad word about a player who gave four good years of service to the League of Ireland champions, although the timing of the Rovers release didn't go down well.
But Dundalk have made progress in their attempts to keep hold of goalkeeper Gary Rogers after Rovers made a play for his services, and they know that qualifying for the round of 32 would prolong this adventure until February and give them a strong bargaining tool with anyone mulling over their options.
Gannon says that expectations have steadily increased with every good performance.
"Some people might feel we are inferior to this kind of opposition but we don't feel like that at all," he says. "Stephen believes that we're well capable of playing at this level.
"I think we are where we are in the group on merit. I don't think that there's anyone could argue that we are there on luck. And the fact people are now expecting us to get a result shows how far we've come."