LOI's top two ready for battle as focus moves off World Cup

ORIEL DATE: Dundalk’s Michael Duffy in action against Cork City last March

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Stephen Kenny says his Dundalk side are happy to put their record, and reputation, on the line when they face up to Cork City in a key game in the 2018 title race tonight.

With today being a World Cup-free zone, due to the arrival of a rest day at Russia 2018, a full house is expected at Oriel Park for the visit of league champions and league leaders Cork.

Cork have the edge in this fixture since the two clubs began their new rivalry, the league title a two-horse race again this season with a gap of 15 points between second-placed Dundalk and their closest rivals, Waterford.

The arrival of European football next month will see the rich get richer, Cork guaranteed to earn at least €800,000 from their Euro ventures, as domestically the top two are clearly the top dogs, Kenny eager for his side to come out on top.

"There's a lot of interest in the town, obviously a lot of the focus has been on the World Cup, three games a day and it captures the imagination," he says.

"But this is a brilliant game domestically, Dundalk against Cork in Oriel Park, we've had some great nights here, both teams have been on a good run and it should be a good game.

Lilywhites boss Stephen Kenny

"Overall in my time here our record against Cork is very good. This season it's been one each, we won in Oriel Park and they won in Turner's Cross, the games have been very tight. Victory would be great for the town and it would be great if we can get the result."

Apart from a 3-0 win for Cork in Oriel last June, all of the Cork-Dundalk have been tighter than tight, never more than one goal between the sides as Kenny steels his side for a Cork onslaught. "Cork don't give you an inch, you know when you play Cork they close down every area of the park, they don't give you a minute to settle and we're not expecting much space. That's the reality of it, we have to work hard to create space but the players are playing very well at the moment. We are in very good form, scoring goals and confidence is up but we need to take that into the game. We need to keep that run going," added Kenny.

"We have been champions for three years, Cork won it last year but we want to try and make it four in five years, that's our ambition. Cork have other ideas and are going well."

While the two clubs focus on their battle for the league title, some other parties will be present in Oriel Park tonight as both Legia Warsaw and Levadia Tallinn, the two clubs' opponents in Europe next month, are likely to have spies in place. Legia's Artur Jedrzejczyk started for Poland in their final World Cup game yesterday.