Lilywhites still hopeful Murray deal can be done
Dundalk complete their pre-season schedule when they host Longford Town at Oriel Park at 7.45pm tonight (Tuesday) before making the trip to Turner's Cross on Saturday where they will meet Cork City in the President's Cup final (kick-off 5.30pm).
While Vinny Perth is looking forward to getting more minutes into the legs of his players in both matches, he says performances will be more important than results this week as the group continue building towards the league opener at home to Sligo Rovers on Friday week, February 15th. 'It's genuinely all about building towards the Sligo game. That's all that matters,' he said. 'This time last year we had a really bad night in the President's Cup but in the long run it didn't mean a hell of a lot. At the same time it's something that we really look forward to. 'It's a great test for us but the Longford game will be a brilliant one too because it gives us a chance to get some more minutes on the pitch. They had a good result at the weekend (beating Cork City 3-1) and will have a real chance of coming back up this year.
'This week will be a bit more focused just on the matches. We might not train as hard this week so we have that freshness heading into matches. Longford will give us a proper test and that will be good for the lads.'
While there will be a more competitive edge to the President's Cup match against Cork City, Perth says the outcome is not that important to him at this stage of the season.
'I thought we played well last year in the President's Cup but we were just short of bodies and short of fitness and we'd a lot of sickness in the camp.
'We were 2-0 up and looking really good but we ended up losing 4-2 and it was the end of the world. We drew a couple of matches after that and people were writing us off but as I said to the management team, we're looking at the end game. As much as there might be pressure on us to achieve wins early we have to think of the long game,' he said.
Part of that long game is building the squad for the season ahead. Former Republic of Ireland U-21 international Sean Murray, who impressed in the recent Malone Cup victory over Drogheda Utd, remains on the radar with talks ongoing with his club Vejle Boldklub to secure his signature.
It is understood Dundalk remain hopeful that the 25-year-old will join, possibly this week, but while not willing to comment on the former Watford player, Perth did admit there could be others arriving before the transfer deadline on February 22nd.
'We could play upwards of 60 matches this year. The squad at the moment there is two for every position within reason but we do need to strengthen and if good players become available the board have let it be known to me that they'll help us.
'I think we've lost seven players out of the squad from last year between George Poynton, Carlton Ubaezuono, Ronan Murray, Sam Byrne, Dylan Connolly, Stephen O'Donnell and Gabriel Sava and we've only really replaced them with three so the squad is technically a little light by one or two but at the same time our squad is so good that we are in a good position.
'We can be patient and be really targeted about who we want. Stephen O'Donnell has done a huge amount of work on that for me.
'We'll be calm and take our time. If someone good becomes available great but if not then I think our squad is good enough. But we won't ignore better players.'
Perth said there were no specific positions being looked at with regard to strengthening the squad.
'It's just a general thing,' he said. 'Our two strikers are in a really good place at the moment and we believe Dan Kelly could play as a striker if needs be. That's one position where we're well covered and with Jordan (Flores) coming into the midfield and Karolis (Chvedukas) coming back midfield is another area where we're well covered. We've four centre halves as well so we're not exactly in a bad place but it's more about numbers over specific ambitions.'
Perth also said he is hopeful that the three players who sat out last week's games with LASK Linz and IF Brommapojkarna in Spain - new signing Jordan Flores, midfielder Karolis Chvedukas and PFAI Young Player of the Year Jamie McGarth - would be back in action sooner rather than later.
'Karolis is back on the pitch now so he can start getting integrated over the next week or so,' he said of the Lithuanian international who missed large chunks of last season with an ankle injury that eventually required surgery.
'We're very happy with his progress. His fitness levels are quite high because he has been working with Danny Miller quite a lot in the background and Danny tends to give you the players back almost fit from a cardiovascular point of view so we're very happy with where he's at.
'He's back on the pitch now with boots on. The operation was just to tidy up some bits and pieces in his ankle but we're very confident he's on his way back.
'Jamie had an injection to clear up a problem he has. We were hoping he wouldn't need it but he had an issue from the middle to back end of last season so we made a decision that this was the right time to tidy up that injury. Jamie is a couple of weeks away from being back in the group full-time.
'Jordan was part of the group on the training ground in Spain but we probably feel he is a week to 10 days behind the rest of the group so his target will be in or around the Sligo game. That's his target.
'We really trust Danny and David (Murphy). We've been really good at bringing back players from injury. You only have to look at what they did with Pat Hoban last year so we have to trust the medical team to work their magic but there will be plenty of games for Jordan over the next couple of weeks.'
Reflecting on the training camp in Murcia, Perth said it was hugely beneficial.
'I think both of the games had massive benefits. The first game we played a team in season and it gave the players something to aim for going forward. Their fitness levels were exceptional and the way they pressed was a real learning curve so it gave us, as a group, something to aim for.
'Then the second game, it was a different style similar to our own league. I thought we were very good at times. Of course there are some areas of improvement but we'd expect that at this stage of the season. We can really start to focus now on patterns of play over the next week or two. I think the management team couldn't have had a better week.'
He also admitted it was a good bonding week, particularly for new first team coach John Gill and recent arrivals Aaron McCarey, Jordan Flores and Dan Kelly.
'I think John in particular and the few new players - Aaron, Jordan and Dan - really integrated into the group and sort of seen what we're all about and how we work.
'John was really impressed by the work rate within our club and he was able to let the guys know who he is and what he's all about over the week and I think a lot of the players were really impressed by him,' said Vinny.