'We focus on one game at a time but it has been mentioned' - Vinny Perth says Dundalk unafraid of treble talk
Runaway league leaders, EA Sports Cup finalists and one win away from another FAI Cup final appearance, Vinny Perth can fully understand why talk of a treble is rife around Dundalk.
Some people in Perth's position would be quick to downplay that sort of chit-chat but the 43-year-old freely admits it is something that has been spoken about in the Dundalk dressing-room.
One could interpret that as arrogance but, speaking ahead of this evening's EA Sports Cup final with Derry City at the Brandywell, the Lilywhites head coach says it's merely a sign of the hunger amongst his players.
"Certain gurus would say, 'It's one game at a time,' and we do focus on one game at a time, but the treble has been mentioned," says Perth. "They're a very ambitious group and internally we do have ambitions and we do drive ourselves to set high standards."
Under Stephen Kenny, Dundalk won the league and FAI Cup double in 2015 and 2018, making their exit from the EA Sports Cup at the semi-final stage in both seasons. Four years ago, they lost on penalties to Galway United but it was a shock 1-0 defeat to Cobh Ramblers last August that sticks in the craw of Perth and his players.
"There was huge disappointment last year when we lost to Cobh," he said, "but we have learned lessons from it. We went down to play them in the FAI Cup recently and we brought down every member of our first-team squad because we wanted the players to understand that we respect every competition."
Tonight's opponents are the only club to have won a clean sweep of all three domestic trophies in one season. Jim McLaughin's all-conquering team of 1988/'89 are revered on Foyleside and if the Candystripes needed an extra incentive to beat Dundalk, preserving that record should be it.
The sides have already met on three previous occasions in the Walled City this season. Dundalk won the league game back in March and edged a five-goal thriller in the FAI Cup just last month. Goals, therefore, should not be hard to come by but Perth believes the outcome is in the balance, despite Declan Devine's claim that his team start at rank outsiders.
"It's arguable who the favourites are," said Perth. "I believe the game is sold out and we expect the Brandywell to be really loud so we're going to have to go into the lion's den and take it on.
"We've both gone at each other hammer and tongs this year and it's set up to be a brilliant game of football. If we don't lift the trophy, we'll have been beaten by a team who have been fairly impressive."
Talk of the 't-word' will only intensify if Dundalk win the competition for the third time since 2014. That victory kick-started a trophy-laden spell at Oriel Park and Perth is hoping for a similar outcome this evening.
"I always found that this competition can be a catalyst for teams," he remarked. "I won it myself as a player when I was at Longford Town and we went on to do the cup double that year. As much as people are being very presumptuous that Dundalk are about to win this trophy and that, we still have hurdles to get over but this is a massive opportunity." Derry City v Dundalk, Live, eir Sport 1, 8.0