independent

Wednesday 24 January 2018

'We'll have to raise our game to beat Derry'

Soccer: Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup

Stephen Kenny believes Dundalk couldn't have got a tougher tie than Derry City in the opening round of the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup but insists the same is true for the Candystripes.

It will be second against third at Oriel Park on Sunday (kick-off 6.30pm) as two of the cup favourites battle it out for a place in the second round.

Kenny is expecting a bumper crowd for the game and believes fans have a part to play given the fine form Kenny Shiels' side are in at present.

"It's a tough draw for both teams," he said.

"It seems very harsh that with all the non-league teams in the draw that two of the top three teams play each other. That's the draw, but we're at home and I think it will be one of the biggest crowds we've ever seen at Oriel Park.

"The biggest crowd I've seen was the game against Cork to win the league and I expect it might not be far behind that next week. I know they are bringing 1,000, so it'll be a big crowd on Sunday night.

"Derry are a good team and they're playing well. They played very well last week against Limerick - I was at the game - and then obviously they had a good win away to Rovers, so they're in top form.

"It's probably as tough a draw as we could have got, but it's tough for them as well. We're the team that when it comes to big games over the last four years we've always come out on top. We've the capacity to do that, but we'll have to raise it again because they've good players and are playing well."

Kenny believes Friday night's 3-0 victory over Limerick was important to help his side get over the disappointment of bowing out of Europe last month.

"The disappointment of losing in extra time in Rosenborg was hard to take for everyone at the club because we realise the impact that last season had on the players themselves, the town of Dundalk and the club itself - it was magnificent.

"To go as close as we did in extra time, knowing that we'd be playing in a packed Aviva Stadium and a packed Parkhead and going on to play in a play-off for either the Champions League or Europe League and then subsequently what comes after that.

''All of that went in extra-time in Trondheim, so the disappointment of that was difficult to stomach, but I think we came back and played all right in Sligo last week.

''I felt it was a good overall display but we just conceded a goal from a cross that went directly in and it was just one of those things that gave Sligo a lifeline.

"Tonight there were no such worries. We were comprehensive winners. 3-0 didn't flatter us and it could have been more, but it was a good win."

Afterwards, Kenny spoke of his delight at seeing his side threaten and score from set pieces once again after admitting they had lost a bit of that earlier in the season.

"We're conscious that we haven't scored as many goals from corner kicks and set plays as we would have liked this season.

"We've been getting chances, but our accuracy from our heading hasn't been what it has been. Brian (Gartland) is obviously a big part of that because he's such a physical presence. That's a big part of his game, but tonight he was influential in the second and the third goal."

The manager also reserved special praise for Patrick McEleney on his return to the side.

"He took a few minutes to find his rhythm because he has been out for a couple of weeks, but mid-way through the second half he stepped it up and got to the pace of the game and influenced it in a major way.

"His passing and his general play are just a joy to watch. We've nobody like that. He plays the game differently to most people in this part of the world. He has just got great vision and a range of passing that you wouldn't see anywhere.

"It was a great run when he was taken down for the free kick and then a great finish."

The Derry man continues to be linked with a move to England, but Kenny insisted that he expected the player to remain at Oriel Park until the end of the season at least.

"There was talk this week about Melbourne, so I told him to watch the cricket this week and get ready for the Ashes in the autumn in Melbourne Cricket Ground. I'll be over to visit him if he goes," he grinned.

"No, listen, we've had no bids and there's nothing imminent in that regards. I expect Patrick to be here until the end of the season and hopefully he'll be here next year.''

Kenny reiterated his side's desire to do well in the cups and finish the season strongly.

"This season we're not going to win the league, but we want to finish second and we've a great chance in the two cups.

"It's a very, very tough draw for us and for Derry as well, but we have home advantage which can be important and it finishes on the night because there are no replays. It's a tough week, with having the game on the Monday," he said.

The Argus

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