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Mantra for success


Daryl Horgan, Dundalk, in action against Avdija Vršajević, Hajduk Split. Picture: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

Daryl Horgan, Dundalk, in action against Avdija Vršajević, Hajduk Split. Picture: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

Daryl Horgan, Dundalk, in action against Avdija Vršajević, Hajduk Split. Picture: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

WINNING has become a very welcome habit for the players of Dundalk FC.

And as they head into the challenge of facing their closest title rivals Cork City tonight, Dundalk's in-form winger Daryl Horgan promises that Stephen Kenny's side has no plans to change the way they play as the business end of the season looms into view.

With 14 wins from their last 16 games in all competitions, including that stunning 2-1 defeat of Hajduk Split in Croatia, confidence is part of the baggage for Dundalk on their trip south this evening.

A former Cork City player, Horgan knows all about the Munster club and is well aware of their superb home record, City unbeaten at Turner's Cross in the league in over 13 months, so the pressure is on, but for Horgan it's business as usual, even though tonight's game is first v second.

"The mantra of one game at a time is still there for us and we are not going to change that now. Every game in this league is tough when you are at the top as teams sit back against you and are hard to play against. But we will keep playing the way we have been playing, whether it's Cork City or anyone else," says Horgan.

"It's all going well for us at the moment so if it can all knit together for us for the next three months, who knows what can happen.

"Three months is a long time to have left in a title race but if we keep working as hard as we have done, we are a match for anyone in the league, if we keep doing the right things and don't abandon the principles that have got us this far.

"This is a big match tonight and there's that added bit of interest as it's live on TV. But it's not a season-defining game, someone won't win or lose the league on the back of this match in Cork tonight, we have 11 games to go after tonight.

"The pressure is on both teams here as Cork are at home and will want to do well for their home crowd but we want to keep doing what we have been doing - scoring goals and winning games," added Horgan.

"The confidence is high, we are pleased with the results we've had and winning in Croatia in the Europa League was a great experience, it was just a pity that we went out of the completion. Our performance in the second half in Split was amazing and for us to go away and beat a major European side like Hajduk was something else.

"But we have kept the show on the road in the league and we showed no hangover from the European match, we played Bray at home a few days after the game in Europe and won well, so we are going down to Cork full of confidence," added Horgan.

"We know it's going to be a tough game, Cork are a good side and had been on a great run before they lost to Bohs last weekend. They have a great home record and I know from having been at Cork City that teams hate playing at Turner's Cross, so we will have to be at our best to get the win."

Horgan had played senior football for Salthill Devon and Sligo Rovers before joining Cork midway through the 2011 season, helping City win the Division One title and promotion.

"Winning the league with Cork was great," he says. "I was only there for half of that season and they were on the crest of a wave when I joined but it was nice to play a part and get a league medal - but Cork City should never have been in that division in the first place, they are too big a club to be down in Division One and it's great to see them back challenging for the title in the top division."

It's been a busy season for Dundalk so far: Monday's EA Sports Cup semi-final against Wexford Youths will be their 35th competitive game of the season.

But Kenny's mob are a fit group and four players, including Horgan, have started every league game - in contrast, from the rest of the league only three outfield players are ever-presents for their clubs (Keelan Dillon, Stephen Folan and Robbie Benson).

"We are a fit group and that carries us through," says Horgan. "We are also very hungry, no one wants to miss out in any game, no matter what competition it's in and that has been the key for us this season. We have a core group of players but you also have players in the squad who make an impact off the bench, that's how you get a winning team."

Cork boss John Caulfield will demand a response from his players after threy were well beaten by Bohemians last week. "We've come from a situation where we haven't been in contention at all for the last couple of years, to a situation where we have a real chance of qualifying for Europe," he says.

"Last week was disappointing because we lost the match and we didn't play as well as we are capable of. This is the biggest game of the season so far. We didn't play well last Friday so there is an opportunity and an onus on the whole squad to step up to the mark and put in a big performance, and that is what we are hoping to do."