Drogheda United make the short trip to Dundalk for the final Louth derby of the season as they look to get a shock result against the league leaders in their fight to stay in the Premier Division.
Dundalk come into this game off the back of an impressive 4-0 victory against Sligo Rovers in the FAI Cup quarter-final last week. It was four second half goals from Daryl Horgan, Ciaran Kilduff, Ronan Finn and a first goal for the club from Sean Maguire that sent Stephen Kenny’s side through to the semi-final of the competition, where they will face Longford Town.
Speaking to dundalkfc.com ahead of the game, Maguire expressed his delight at scoring his first goal and said he is looking forward to the derby on Friday.
“I was delighted to score, it was great to finally get the goal. It was a long time coming for me I think but it was great to finally get it, especially in front of the home crowd.
“I have never been involved in a Louth Derby but I believe that it is massive. The crowd will be good, it’ll be a good atmosphere and live on television is something which adds to it. I am really looking forward to it. It’ll be a great experience. Local derbies are always huge. We have six games to go and it makes it bigger and hopefully we will get the three points and it’ll kick us on.”
Looking at the league, Dundalk have drawn two (vs Sligo and Bohemians) and won one (vs Shamrock Rovers) of their last three league games. Those results mean the Lilywhites currently sit eight points clear of Cork City at the top of the table, with just six games remaining.
In team news, Kenny has a full squad to choose from as captain Stephen O’Donnell has returned from a one-match suspension, served against Sligo in the FAI Cup last weekend.
Also speaking to dundalkfc.com, Kenny said he is expecting a difficult test from Drogheda but says his team are playing with confidence.
“We have a fully fit squad to choose from this week with Stephen O’Donnell returning from suspension. The derbies are always tough affairs, every time we play we get a tough game but we are playing with confidence at the moment, you can see that in our play and we have to bring that confidence into the game on Friday night.”
Dundalk have won both meetings between these sides in the league this season. In the first meeting, in Oriel Park, it was an 88th minute strike from Richie Towell that handed Dundalk the win while in their second meeting in July at United Park, a deflected Darren Meenan strike in the last minute gave Kenny’s men the win after Lee Duffy had equalised minutes after Meenan’s first goal of the game.
A 2-0 win a fortnight ago against Derry in Mark Kinsella’s first game in charge as caretaker manager means Drogheda are currently placed ninth in the league, just two points clear of the relegation play-off spot, currently occupied by Sligo Rovers and four clear of bottom of the table Limerick.
That win, courtesy of goals from Sean Thornton and Jason Marks, and a Man of the Match performance from young Adam Whelan, gave Drogheda their first win since they beat Bohemians at the end of June.
Speaking to droghedaunited.ie, Kinsella said his side were excellent against Derry and importantly cut out the mistakes they had consistently been making in the games beforehand.
“We were excellent on the night, both defensively and going forward. We were well organised and carried a threat on the counter with Keith Treacy breaking from midfield. I think Derry only created a couple of chances and Micheál Schlingermann made one outstanding save.
“It was important that we eliminated the needless mistakes that we had been making and hopefully we can use this result as a springboard for the rest of the season.”
Drogheda, like Dundalk have no injury or suspensions to worry about, so Kinsella has a full squad to choose from. Speaking ahead of the derby, the former Ireland international is well aware of the huge task his players face but says they won’t show any fear,
“We won’t show any fear going to Dundalk. They are, by some distance, the best team in the league but we have given them a real game twice this season. Anything can happen in a derby game and hopefully with the game being on TV, it will act as extra motivation for the team.
“We know that it is going to be a huge ask but with only six games left to play we need to be picking up results every time we go out on the pitch.”
Pundit Arena Prediction
Dundalk 3-1 Drogheda United
Last Two Meetings
League, 3 July 2015: Drogheda United 1-2 Dundalk.
League, 10 April 2015: Dundalk 1-0 Drogheda United.
Dundalk 1/5, Draw 11/2, Drogheda United 13/1.
Kick-off: 7:25pm (Live on RTE2)
Gerard Grimes, Pundit Arena