Duff braced for tough test in Sligo

Shelbourne look to make it back to back wins on Friday night as the Reds make the trip west to face Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds (7:45pm KO – live on LOITV)

Damien Duff’s side made it a winning start to the season at home as they beat the champions Shamrock Rovers 2-1 at Tolka Park.

The squad were back to work the following morning, and after a week of training at the AUL manager Duff delivered a squad fitness update to ShelbourneFC.ie: “Shane Griffin is still out, working through his injury. Sean Boyd is obviously suspended, aside from that we’ve a full team. John O’Sullivan went off last Friday, he just got a dead leg, he’s trained all week and is good to go.” 

Sligo have enjoyed an undefeated start to the 2024 campaign, the Bit O’Red were unlucky not to beat Bohs in their season opener and followed that up with a draw against title contenders Derry City. Assessing the quality of tomorrow’s opposition Duff remarked: 

“You could argue they’re a new outfit, made a lot of changes in the off season to their squad, John Russell would admit himself maybe that it was needed after last season. They’ve got top players, there for everyone to see, really dangerous players, a very good team. We have to go down there and show them respect as individuals and as a team, because they have a lot of quality.”

The Reds are facing into a busy few days with Friday’s game to be followed by the Monday meeting with newly promoted Galway United at Tolka Park. Duff is prepared to have their squad depth tested:

“I said it from day one, the squad is a lot stronger this year. We’ve seen so far, I would say the bench has played a big part in getting us the four points, we’ve a strong healthy squad full of quality and making changes is something we will do on the night and between games. 

“I dont think I’m asking too much, I know people say I give out about players on Monday, it’s for the whole football world in every league, you play 3 games a week or 2 games in 3 days. It’s great, no sympathy for anyone who is saying it’s hard going, these are the best days of your life. Very simple, if you’re a top pro between games, there should be no flatness on Monday. That said, we’re not looking that far ahead. We’ve a big game in Sligo and we know we have to be at it because we’re playing a very good team.”

Liam Burt has made an instant impact since arriving in the winter on loan from Shamrock Rovers, he sat out the win over the Hoops but is in line to feature tomorrow night. Burt was fouled eight times in Shels’ draw with Waterford. That was the most fouls won by a single player in a league game across the last three seasons, Duff feels it shows what a handful Burt can be for defenders:

“He’s a big player in the league, big player in our team, I’ve had a giggle a few times even in training, he’s getting 8 knocks in training, he’s a magnet for getting kicked, everyday going home black and blue, even with our own guys, kicking him around. He gets a beating, it’s not going to change and he’s going to be used to it. He’s settled really well and we’re delighted to have him.”

The Reds won on their last two visits to the Showgrounds in 2023 but Duff feels those results will be meaningless come 7:45 tomorrow:

“Same for a lot of teams, its irrelevant, so much changes and turnover in squad and teams between seasons, Sligo is not far off that, it’s been a huge change in the off season, they have been impressive and you’d argue they’ve had as tough a start as possible away to Bohs and home to Derry. We know we have to fully prepare and we had out pre match, watched their stuff, done out homework and now we’re looking forward to the challenge of the weekend.”

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