The Lilywhites host Shamrock Rovers in a crucial SSE Airtricity League Premier Division encounter on Friday night
Stephen O’Donnell insists he will be treating Friday’s top of the table clash with Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park like any other game, as he once again dismissed the notion that Dundalk were in a title race.
The Lilywhites trail Stephen Bradley’s side by eight points in the SSE Airtricity League table but know they can close the gap to five with a win on Friday – with a game in-hand over the league leaders still to come away to Drogheda United next month.
While the Hoops will be hot favourites for the game, their recent record in Oriel Park, coupled with Dundalk’s unbeaten form there this season, suggests an upset is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Of their last six visits to the Carrick Road venue in all competitions, the Tallaght men have won just once – against an understrength side preparing for a Europa League play-off in September 2020. Meanwhile, Dundalk have won the other four meetings – including both games last season – with the sides playing out a scoreless draw in their last meeting in Oriel back in March.
Asked if his side were in a title race in the build-up to the game, O’Donnell said: “No, we're only halfway there.
“It can change so quick. No one was saying we were in a title race seven or eight weeks ago. It doesn't change with us based on where we are in the league. This year was all about the first year of putting a squad together, getting it as competitive as we can.
“The lads are doing well but there's another half of the season to go. We're not entertaining any kind of talk, be it title, mid-table or relegation. It doesn't matter. It's just all noise.”
When it was put to him that it would be hardly to dismiss talk of a title challenge if his side won on Friday, O’Donnell said: “It'll still just be noise. It still won't take away from the practical stuff of what we do on the pitch in training Monday to Friday.
“It won't make one iota of difference to us regardless of the result because if you're fully focused on just results and where you are in the table that's not a recipe for sustaining any period of consistency throughout a season or in seasons.
“All talk can change off results. You concentrate on the main thing and that's the match and can you get a performance. The talk follows if you do it well and if you don't do it well.
“There'll be no talking in two months time if we don't keep concentrating on ourselves and work hard. The talk would be very much different then and we're well aware of that. We're not interested in talk. We're just focused on lads training well, dedicating themselves and then turning up on a Friday and doing well,” said O’Donnell.