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lilies won't wilt: Gannon

SEAN GANNON has laughed off suggestions that his Dundalk side do not have the experience needed to get their title challenge over the line.

Before the start of tonight's round of games Dundalk hold a four-point lead over closest rivals Cork City, but with another round of matches on Monday, the league table could have a different shape this time next week, when the title race takes a break for a weekend of FAI Cup action.

It has been suggested that the presence of so many league medal holders in the squads- and the manager's dugout - at St Patrick's Athletic and Shamrock Rovers could be a massive boon to them in the closing stages of the campaign as only three members of the Dundalk squad have won a league title before.

"That's not a factor for me at all," says Gannon. "We have a confidence in our ability that has stood us well all season so far. To be honest, we don't pay much attention to what other people think or say.

"We are tight squad, a good group with a good manager and we only worry about ourselves, not anyone else. We are a young squad but that's a good thing, not a disadvantage. Most of us have not won a league medal but that is the hunger that is driving the squad forward, we are willing to learn and get better

"Only three of us have won a league before but that's not important. We have shown when we go out on the park that we can do our business, we have beaten all the top teams away from home so our lack of experience in terms of winning leagues didn't really bother us then," added Gannon.

The full back, who has played in every league game this season, is one of those medal-holders in the Oriel Park squad, Gannon picking up a medal while at St Pats last season.

It was a bit-part role in that success with just three starts and 13 appearances for the Saints overall in the league, but the episode still left an impression on the 23-year-old.

"I had a great year at Pats and though I didn't play much in the league I still felt part of it when we won the league there.," he admits.

"The team were doing so well it was hard to get into the XI, if I was Liam Buckley I wouldn't have changed the team so I have no regrets and no bad feeling towards Liam or the club. I was part of it all and I did my best when I played. I feel more a part of it this year as I am in the team every week."

A solid back four has been the foundation stone for Dundalk's success this season, with Stephen Kenny's defence essentially picking itself every week. "There is massive pressure to stay in the team," says Gannon. "I know I have to do well in every game as Mark Rossiter is sitting on the bench waiting for his chance, Mark is one of the best right backs in the league so I know that if I don't perform he will be in ahead of me. David McMillan has 12 goals this season and he finds it hard to get into the team, you have someone like Ruaidhri Higgins and Keith Ward itching to get into the XI, that shows what a strong squad we have and that is a massive help for us."

Dundalk remain the form team of the league but there has been one slight concern in recent weeks as an impressive defensive run (six clean sheets in eight games at one stage) has been nibbled away, Dundalk conceding once in each of their last three games.

"Stephen Kenny has spoken to us about it and as a back four, we want to have clean sheets," says Gannon. "We don't really need to be told, we know what we did wrong in the last few games, especially against Drogheda last week, that was an avoidable goal but these things happen, and it's getting the points that matters," added Gannon.

While Dundalk remain top of the table, Limerick have been most impressive since Martin Russell took over and the Blues head to Oriel Park tonight on the back of successive 4-1 wins.


"It's the biggest test probably for anybody at the moment because they are the team in form; they're the team on top of the table and challenging for the title," Limerick boss Martin Russell said

"We know it's going to be a tough challenge come Friday but equally we would like to think they'll be thinking Limerick are going to give them a tough challenge.

"I'm looking forward to the game. The players are looking forward to the game and it's the ones that you want to be involved in.

"I think the pressure is on them to go and achieve the title, but we've talked about our own pride and our own pressure from within that we want to perform well.

"When you take to the field in this country, everybody knows they're going to be in for a proper game and we want to come away winning each game that we play in.

"We are capable. Hopefully we're beginning to fulfil that potential. It's important to get consistency about it, that it's not highs and lows. We know we're going to have to be on top form playing against a very good Dundalk outfit."