AFTER shipping 11 goals in their last two league games and missing their star player you could forgive Dundalk manager Darius Kierans for being pessimistic about Sunday's FAI Cup semi-final but he is anything but.
A 7-0 reverse against Shamrock Rovers on Friday night, quickly followed up by a 4-0 defeat at the Brandywell on Tuesday, is hardly encouraging form, but Kierans is refusing to get bogged down.
Having already turned over St Patrick's Athletic 1-0 at Richmond park this season, the young Dundalk coach knows that while his team are underdogs they have a chance in front of their home fans at the weekend.
"We need to keep it tight early on, there is no pressure on us. It's been 51 years since Pats won the cup and some great teams have come and gone for them and they haven't won it and there is no doubt that Liam (Buckley) has assembled a great team this year," he said.
"It could be the year of the underdog, look at Europe in the Ryder Cup. Nobody gave them a chance on the Saturday and sport can be like that and we have to draw inspiration from things like that.
"We've beaten Pats at Richmond Park this year already. We were lucky to win that game but with a little luck (on Sunday), you never know."
If the Lilywhites are to cause the shock of the semi-finals, they will have to do so without their mercurial attacker Mark Griffin, who misses out through suspension. Griffin was issued a straight red for an alleged elbow on Shelbourne's Brian Shorthall -- even though the player made no protest, the decision left the Oriel Park faithful bemused.
"Mark Griffin's suspension is a big loss because it's a harsh sending off at the best of times. It's disappointing for Mark to miss an occasion like this, but hopefully somebody else will step up to the plate," he said.
The likes of Gary Shanahan and Michael Rafter will provide the firepower and Kierans was upbeat about Dundalk's attack against Derry City on Tuesday night.
"Even though we didn't score we've gone away thinking that we have more of a scoring threat than we thought," he added.
"I was delighted with the attitude and the commitment."
All the attacking prowess in the world will count for nothing if Dundalk continue coughing up goals and the manager feels that basic, preventable errors have been costing his side.
"A lot of the goals have been just simple mistakes and we gifted Rovers some goals last Friday and the same against Derry but most of it is coming down to individual errors," he said.
"We went to Dalymount Park in the quarter-final and we said if we cut out those errors we could win the game, we cut them out and we won the game. On Sunday we can't make mistakes or we'll be punished because Pats are an excellent team. They play in the right manner and have quality players right through their squad."
Dundalk have a very proud tradition in the cup and the competition provides a huge opportunity to put some gloss on what has been a tumultuous year at Oriel Park.
"Just in the season we're having, and the financial constraints all year, it's one of those years when you just want to stay up but the cup is a welcome break from the league," he said. "We're playing against a very good Pats team in good form but maybe it's not a bad thing that we're the underdogs."