Sunday sees the conclusion of the 2023 Leinster League season and for Dundalk RFC, it’s very straightforward. Win and they guarantee their place in Division 1B next season. Thanks to a try bonus point away to Tullow, the likelihood of them finishing in the bottom two is very slight, but not mathematically impossible.
Head coach Dave Fearon is expecting another tough battle as Longford have a chance to pull themselves off the bottom of the table and into a relegation play-off. The two teams did meet at CPL Park in November and the hosts came away with a four-point win, so Dundalk know this will be a difficult fixture.
“Last week against Tullow, I was hoping to get at least a losing bonus point, so to come away with a try bonus point was a big positive for us, despite the beating we took. Those last 10 minutes, we threw everything at them and it did cost us on the scoreboard, but we got the fourth try,” he said.
“The two teams now behind us, I just can’t see both of them getting something against the two teams they’re playing,”
The fixtures in question are Cill Dara at home to table-toppers Tullow and Mullingar against third-place Athy. While the Midlanders are best placed to get a result against Athy, it’s hard to see Cill Dara beating Tullow.
He also singled out the performance of club captain Laurence Steen for praise as he scored three of the four tries for Dundalk, very much leading from the front.
“We knew after Christmas that this game against Longford would be a season definer and it’s turned out that way,” he added.
In terms of personnel, Fearon laughs that the club are running on empty.
“We have about six lads who are gone for the season. In Tullow, we were missing our full-back line. But with this being the last game of the season maybe a few of the lads will strap up and try and play through the pain barrier. If there was a few more games after this I wouldn’t expect them, but we’ll have to see who we have available.”
Dundalk have a Towns’ Plate game to contend with before their final league game. They have been drawn at home to Edenderry on Thursday night with an 8pm start at Mill Road. Fearon welcomes the challenge, despite the pressure on his squad.
“We couldn’t field a second-team last week because of the injuries but we are looking forward to Thursday night, it’s a good competition. There’s no pressure, so we can go out on Thursday and give some of the youths some experience and try a few new things. It would be nice to get a run at the end of the season and end on a high.”
The impetus for a win for Dundalk will be a possible meeting with Navan. Should the Meath team beat Clondalkin, the two sides are drawn to meet in the second round.