Dundalk head into the first Louth derby of the season looking to keep their unbeaten record intact against Drogheda, who have picked up just one point from their last four games.
Stephen Kenny’s side saw their winning start to the season end in Jackman Park last week as an 89th minute equaliser from Paul O’Conor earned Limerick a draw. Kenny then made eleven changes on Tuesday night as Dundalk beat Shelbourne 1-0 to advance to the quarter-finals of the EA Sports Cup, a trophy they’re hoping to retain this season.
After being sidelined for two months through injury, captain Stephen O’Donnell returned to play the full 90 minutes for Dundalk on Tuesday, meaning Stephen Kenny now has a near full strength squad to choose from, with the only doubt being midfielder Jake Kelly, who is struggling with a muscle injury.
Speaking to dundalkfc.com ahead of the derby, Kenny praised his players and said that he wants to build on their good start to the season,
“The players have been excellent so far. It has been a terrific start for us and the players have put in some great performances in the opening weeks. Unbeaten after 6 and I have been really pleased with the players and their efforts in the opening weeks.
“There’s a little bit of extra edge in a derby game but we are focused on ourselves and our preparation. We have had a good start but we want to build on that and keep our good form going. Hopefully we can do that on Friday. We’ve prepared well and we’re looking forward to the game.”
The visitors on the other hand, come into the derby in search of their first win in five. Johnny McDonnell’s side have managed to pick up just one point from their last four games. Defeats against Galway and Bohs, who both played with ten men for over 70 minutes and a 3-0 defeat away to Derry have seen the Drogs slip down to 8th in the table.
McDonnell will again be without two key players through injury,talks with defender Neil Yadolahi and midfielder Sean Thornton still sidelined because of thigh and hamstring injuries respectively.
Speaking to droghedaunited.ie ahead of the game McDonnell said,
“I feel we are creating enough chances. It’s just the finishing that has let us down. We probably aren’t playing as openly as a Dundalk or a Shamrock Rovers, but there hasn’t been a game this season where I’ve felt we haven’t tested the opposition goalkeeper.”
“Dundalk are the champions and they will be close again this year so obviously it’s a huge test. We’ve done our homework in terms of set pieces and team shape so hopefully everything will go according to plan. I’m really looking forward to the game, nothing beats a derby atmosphere, and it will give us a great indication of where we are at.”
Pundit Arena Prediction
Dundalk 3-0 Drogheda United
Dundalk: Jake Kelly (muscle) – doubtful
Drogheda United: Neil Yadolahi (thigh), Sean Thornton (hamstring) – both ruled out
Expected Starting XIs
Dundalk: Rogers; Massey, Boyle, Gartland, Gannon; Horgan, Shields, Finn, Towell, Meenan; McMillan
Drogheda United: Schlingermann; Daly, Byrne, Buckley, Gorman; Maher, Hughes; Brady, Marks, Walshe; Kavanagh
Last Two Competitive Meetings
8th August 2014: Drogheda United 1-1 Dundalk
20th May 2014: Dundalk 7-0 Drogheda United
Referee: Padraigh Sutton
Assistants: Dermot Broughton & Mark Gavin
Fourth Official: Ray Matthews
Dundalk 2/9; Draw 5/1; Drogheda United 16/1
Gerard Grimes, Pundit Arena