Duff calls for calm and confidence as Reds travel to Tallaght

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Shelbourne FC make the trip to Tallaght Stadium for the Ringsend Derby on Friday night in the League of Ireland Premier Division.  (7:45pm KO)

The Reds will travel across the city with renewed confidence having taken three points on Easter Monday with a 2-1 win over Sligo Rovers at Tolka Park. 

Mark Coyle was forced off injured during the Reds most recent outing, while Gavin Molloy suffered an ankle injury in UCD last Friday.

Head coach Damien Duff delivered a squad update ahead of tomorrow’s game. He told ShelbourneFC.ie:

“Low key enough this week with bodies needing a break and the amount of changes we made, even subs getting more minutes than we might have expected.

“It was just recovery for Tuesday, everyone really involved with that, we didn’t have a training group. Wednesday we were off. Back in today and trained well. We did our work on Rovers in the video room and then took it out onto the pitch in the AUL. We’re good to go now tomorrow, we’re down numbers wise again, few doubtful, you have to manage the situation.

“Mark Coyle has a slight strain again, he’s out of action, a couple of guys we’ll have to make a call on so we’re not sure yet on the starting line up. 

“Then the long term injured are still out, Sean Boyd and Conor Kane. Gav Molloy’s results came back of his medical scans, it’s going to be a few weeks, we’re disappointed for Gav, he’s been playing really well.

“He’s done ligament damage so too early to put an exact time frame on it, but it will be a few weeks for sure, and will come down to no setbacks in the recovery and how quick Gav can heal.” 

The Reds have lost just one of their last six games, a narrow defeat to Dundalk in Oriel Park is the only blot on the copy book since the start of March.

Reflecting on his side’s start to the 2023 season Duff said: “I think we’re in a nice position. We’ve definitely left points behind during the first round of games. Other teams can say the same I’m sure. It’s a phrase we’ve said a lot over 18 months. 

“Last weekend was very important for us to set the direction we’d go in heading into the second round of matches, our aim was 6 points from two games we got 4 points, it leaves us 3 points better off than at this time last season.

“I think the improvements are there, I know fans will see that but being honest, I’m never happy, I want more and know we’re capable of more, but it’s an ok place to be.” 

The Reds win over Sligo Rovers marked the first time since April 2022 against Derry City that they won having conceded the opening goal. Duff hopes that will help boost belief among his young squad: “For me stats like that show the belief, when you’re 1-0 down, and then coming back to win, it’s a mentality thing, it’s good for the boys to be able to have that. We generally don’t lack belief. 

“We were 1-0 against Derry a few weeks back and we believed we’d win. Second half then we have the sending off, that’s changed the game. I think coming from behind last Monday, that will definitely help the lads, for next time. The belief is there that if they get into that situation, and look over the course of the season it will happen again, you’ll go a goal down, but the belief is there they can turn it around and will only grow having done it on Monday night..

“Looking back on Monday, there were a few issues in the first half but that’s down to lads struggling with injuries, fitness and form, we made the changes and that gave us a spark. 

“You’d say over the course of the first round we earned that bit of luck, the Mahon own goal. I was more than pleased with the result and the performance too in that second half, good to see attacking players looking dangerous. 

“Second half we defended well. Joey O’Brien clipped the game and we watched it as a group on Tuesday, there’s always learnings. The lads bounced in and were delighted to get the win, but looking back on those clips, the areas to improve, brought them back down to earth.

Shamrock Rovers go into the game having won their last three games in the League of Ireland and despite a slow start to the season, Duff feels the Hoops were never far away from firing on all cylinders: “They were never far off form even when they were not getting results. Tallaght Stadium is the hardest place to go in the League of Ireland. 

“They were unbeaten in 70 odd matches until Derry won against them. We know the task at hand. 

“Our mentality never changes. We’re going to win the game. Boys will take that approach in and they need to go there with genuine belief as well.”

“Last season they were very tight games, credit to the guys, we played them 5 times, first few games we lacked belief you’d say, obviously it’s a team coming up from the first division, can be hard to instil the confidence early on, but over the games last season and the one already this year, we’ve seen that confidence and belief grow in our lads. We’ve seen the performances get better too.

“The lads need to get the monkey off the back. There are only two teams we haven’t beaten since we came back up, Dundalk and Rovers. There is no better time than tomorrow. I said it this morning, I think they’re ready to do it and end that wait.”

The Ringsend Derby is a storied rivalry and the fixture’s importance is recognised by the interest in it, with the game screening live on RTÉ 2 on Friday night. Duff has urged his players to embrace the pressure that comes with the occasion and savour every minute of it:

“It’s never the motivation I do worry about, I think the lads need to consistently back themselves and not be fazed by the big occasion.

“That’s where playing in the FAI Cup Final will stand to them, albeit a disappointment on the day, the experience of that stage, helps you not be fazed by big occasions again, playing Rovers in Tallaght, full house, tv cameras rolling, it’s a big game. 

“Our lads will be highly motivated, they’ll need to play with calm and confidence, they are good enough to go there and win, I firmly believe that they’re good enough, they need to believe it too.”