Duffy: Defeat not an option for Dundalk in Cork showdown
THE switch to a 10-team league means an extra meeting between Dundalk and Cork, but the Lilywhites know they have to seize any opportunity to stop the Leesiders’ momentum.
It’s the lessons of 2017 that guide Dundalk winger Michael Duffy as he stressed the importance of tonight’s Oriel Park meeting between Irish football’s two leading forces.
Cork have stepped up the podium to take control of top spot and their 100pc start to the new campaign has contrasted with Dundalk’s stodgy opening.
Stephen Kenny’s charges did hammer Limerick 8-0 before the snow called off last weekend’s fixtures, but they do not want to be playing a lengthy game of catch-up again. Their race was run early last year with John Caulfield’s side winning 21 of their first 22 games.
With three games gone, they are four points behind the double winners. A significant night beckons, no matter how much the respective parties try to play it down.
Duffy – who missed the crucial penalty in the Aviva shootout in November – offered his honest view.
"We slipped up last year with a few results early doors that killed us for the league," says the Derryman.
"We don’t want to be doing that again and that’s why playing Cork is a massive game. We need to win."
That view could be tackled within his dressing-room – avoiding defeat would hardly be a catastrophe with a hectic series of fixtures coming up – but Dundalk’s last victory over Cork came in October 2016. They are win-less in seven subsequent meetings.
Kenny did use the cold snap to arrange a friendly with Warrenpoint that gave undercooked players the opportunity to get minutes under their belts, and that was needed with Dundalk making a number of additions before the close of the transfer window.
"We just needed to get that first win under our belt to settle us," says Duffy, who is building to improve on his patchy first year at the club.
"We’ve made 10 new signings and we’ve got a big squad now. Everyone is going to be fighting for positions every week and good players are going to be left out. Training has been going well and almost everyone is back fit who was out injured."
Cork have already sampled a win at Oriel this term, with their latest President’s Cup success coming courtesy of four second-half goals to overturn a two-goal deficit. New recruit Aaron Barry suggested this week that it might be playing on Dundalk minds.
Caulfield adopted a different stance and predicted that Kenny would field a more experienced side.
"You’ll see them go back to basics," said Caulfield, who anticipated a return for Brian Gartland and Stephen O’Donnell.
"Their starting XI will be familiar. A lot of the foreign players they have won’t play. You don’t know, but I wouldn’t think so. He likes to stick to the players that he’s known for a while."
O’Donnell was guarded on his prospects of involvement when he appeared on the latest LOI Weekly podcast to look ahead to the fixture.
He was reluctant to place a lot of emphasis on the Cork game, stressing that both sides face a busy period with five matches in a fortnight.
"The four head-to-heads are crucial but I think this year – more than any year – there will be points dropped. Friday aside, the league will take a lot more shape after these five games."
Dundalk v Cork City,
Live, 8.0, eir Sport 2
To listen to a big-game preview featuring O’Donnell and ex-Cork player Neal Horgan go to independent.ie/podcasts