Sunday 17 November 2019

Dundalk looking to erase bad Aviva memories on significant Belfast journey

 

Vinny Perth. Photo: Sportsfile
Vinny Perth. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

It would be a stretch to describe it as a consolation for FAI Cup disappointment.

But Dundalk travel to Belfast this evening, conscious of the opportunity to end their season on a high by taking a step towards claiming a trophy that didn't even exist when their season began in February.

The inaugural Unite The Union Cup - the title sponsor is the British and Irish trade union - brings together the champions from north and south in a two-legged affair.

It means that Vinny Perth and his charges take on Linfield at Windsor Park tonight before welcoming David Healy's side to Oriel Park on Monday.

Enthusiasm levels were low in the aftermath of their heartbreaking loss to Shamrock Rovers which ended hopes of a historic treble.

That said, there is monetary motivation for this game in the form of a €50k reward for the winners. It compares favourably with the €110k they receive from the FAI for their 36-game league season.

In a broader context, the showdown is also topical in the context of talks around a cross-border league. The Irish Football Association shot down the idea last week, but Linfield were open to talks and this tie provides an interesting case study for what is feasible.

The Blues performed credibly in Europe this year and have ambitions to emulate Dundalk's previous achievements in that sphere.

However, their manager Healy insists that their ongoing league campaign takes precedence over these fixtures. Dundalk's problem is fatigue brought about by their cup exertions.

They do welcome back Chris Shields after his controversial absence from the Aviva and that is a massive boost. But Patrick McEleney misses out through injury again and Seán Murray joins him on the sidelines.

Doubts hang over Georgie Kelly, Michael Duffy and Seán Gannon; the latter was below par against Rovers and it later emerged he was struggling with an injury.

English midfielder Jordan Flores did make an impressive late cameo against Rovers and he is relishing this opportunity following an injury-interrupted campaign.

"The mood is good in the camp, it has been a good year for us," he said. "We had a good chat after. This is a chance to win another trophy and that's what our focus is on."

  • Linfield v Dundalk, Live, Premier Sports, 7.45pm

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