The Reds are on the road to Turners Cross on St Patrick’s Day for a League of Ireland Premier Division clash with Cork City (5pm KO).
The Reds have had to contend with a busy sickbay in recent weeks with Shane Griffin, Jad Hakiki, Mark Coyle, Conor Kane, Sean Boyd and Paddy Barrett among the walking wounded.
Head coach Damien Duff delivered an upbeat fitness update ahead of the trip south. He told ShelbourneFC.ie: “Shane Griffin is fit and available. It’s a good time to be back fit heading into a game with his home town club. We’re delighted to have him back with the group. Conor Kane is looking really good. We’re glad to see the progress he has made and Conor will ease his way into full training in a few weeks.
“Jad Hakiki will be back training next week as well. People think cruciate and leg breaks are the worst that can happen to a player but the issues Jad has been dealing with, osteitis pubis, have been as difficult as any of them.
“When he’s back on the pitch it’s up to Jad to reach the level he is capable of, we saw glimpses of his ability before the injury. It’s on Jad now to get back there and show what he is made of.
“Mark Coyle is back doing some running, tomorrow is likely too soon for Coyler but he’s making progress. Paddy Barrett went off at half-time last week, he managed to do some training this week, we’re assessing Paddy at the minute, he’s done well for us and Paddy is made of tough stuff.
“Sean Boyd had his operation in London last week. We’re looking at around 12 weeks or so, that’s a nasty injury. We’ll mind him, Boydy is in the best of hands. Mark Cornish and Mauro Martins, two of the leaders in their fields, they’ll work with Sean through the rehab phase and beyond. Boydy will be back to what Boydy does best soon enough, he’s dealt with the issue, he has the best surgeon in the world in medical terms and for us as staff and his teammates, we will help him all we can on and off the pitch”
The Reds picked up a valuable point at home with a defensively solid display in a 0-0 draw against the Champions Shamrock Rovers a week ago, Duff feels its the kind of performance that will help the squad grow:
“It’s a brilliant point, the first time they had a full squad this season, I agree with Joey O’Brien’s assessment, I still think Rovers are the best team in the country. At times, in the games we had to be ultra organised and defend well, work hard without the ball, we did that.
“We limited them and fully deserved the result, we know we can build and the level they’re at, that’s the level we want to get to.
“Such a well earned point from our perspective. Big teams when they go 3 or 4 games without a win, couple of poor results, they can go and paste someone. We’ve seen it before, teams with a point to prove unleash hell. We were ready for that, and we warned the lads to expect it, but I thought defensively we were brilliant, and it was a very interesting game.
“Listen you could say it was devoid of attacking opportunities but I think as the game wore on we could’ve snatched it, but it was a good point.
Duff pointed to the growing confidence on the pitch and in the stands and in particular the crowd’s response to the additional time at the end of the game.
“Last season at home, maybe hanging onto a result the fourth official’s board goes up and you can feel the nerves around the ground, almost a sigh. The vibe last Friday was completely different.
“When he held up 5 minutes it was the Shels fans on their feet with energy and enthusiasm willing the team on to go and win it.
“Rovers did look dead on their feet, in that last few minutes if there was one team going to win it would be us, be it a second phase knick or something scruffy.
“That’s the mentality now from the players, they’ll go to the end, and always try to be positive and attack the game. The players have grown in confidence, and I think the fans can see that.”
After another clean sheet against Rovers, Duff was keen to praise the defensive solidity of his players, and another solid performance from Conor Kearns in goal:
“You’re only as strong as your weakest link. In the main we defend brilliantly and we don’t give up many opportunities at all to opposition teams.
“It tends to be individual errors that have cost us at times, if someone falls asleep that’s a chance or a goal given away.
“The staff we’re on the lads every week, don’t be the one that costs us, don’t drift off for a second, concentration, application, keep those levels up.”
“Training this week has been low key enough, coming off the three tough games, with a lot of knocks and bruises. Even on Monday after the weekend off, we couldn’t do much.
“A lot of video work and preparation on the approach in the early part of the week. We had to modify and monitor the training this week. Lads will be fresh and raring for a proper clash tomorrow night.”
Only goal difference separates Cork City in 6th from the Reds in 7th, and Duff has been impressed by the Leesiders start to the season:
“Cork have done brilliantly well, they certainly haven’t tiptoed into the league. They’ve laid a marker down to tell the test for the division they’ve come up.
“They’re a high energy team and they play with intensity, they’re capable of scoring a few, 10 goals in 3 games and also letting a few in.
“They’ll have Turners Cross rocking, and our lads will be ready for it. It’s one of the great places to go in League of Ireland football, proper ground, an atmosphere, and a derby feel usually when it’s a Dublin team coming to town.”
Duff and Cork City manager Colin Healy represented the Republic of Ireland together at international level, the Reds boss was full of praise for his former team mate:
“Admire Colin Healy a lot, he is a top guy, I have huge respect for him and what he’s done. Really impressive guy, he’s turned the club around, they’ve had good results against UCD, Rovers and Sligo.
“We’ve gone through the video this morning and the lads know what to expect, it might not be pretty, there is always that edge, Shels against Cork City, and even that rivalry of a team from Dublin going down to Cork, there’s always a bit of blood, guts and thunder. It’s a proper fixture and we’re ready for it.”