Duff: “I couldn’t be prouder or happier”

Tolka Park takes centre stage for the final time before the League of Ireland’s Summer break as the Reds face Dundalk tomorrow (7:45pm, LOITV)

It’s Damien Duff’s side’s penultimate game before the break, with Waterford to come the following week, and the Reds will be looking to get back to winning ways having suffered a narrow 2-1 defeat to Sligo Rovers at Tolka Park one week ago.

Duff delivered a squad update to ShelbourneFC.ie after training on Thursday and will be buoyed by approaching this one near full strength: “Good training week, everyone is fit and available bar Lewis Temple, as he’s doing his leaving cert. We wish him all the best of luck with the exams.”

Reflecting on last week’s defeat Duff took plenty of positives from the performance on the night:

“Nine times out of ten, that’s enough to win the game, so it wasn’t meant to be. Where we’re at as a team is constantly evolving. We want to dominate games and possession. We’re seeing that in games now.

“There are games this season where we have dominated, you look at the stats, they back that up. Are we dominating the ball? Yes. Are we creating chances? Yes. Are we taking enough chances? No. Couple that with two moments when we switch off,  you get done. Sligo game, we dominated from start to finish, two lapses of concentration, cost us. We’ve played a lot worse and scraped a 1-0 win. It’s fine margins. I couldn’t be prouder or happier with our position in the league and performances.”

Duff feels the team are in a very positive place heading into the summer break having built year on year since his arrival:

“Where we want to get to, it always helps when we strengthen every window. Since our first window, to the most recent one, we’ve built the squad up. That’s why we’re putting in more dominant performances. We beat Shamrock Rovers, but I wouldn’t say it was dominant. For a couple of months, we’ve been getting to where we want to be and I’m happy with the road we’re on.”

Duff feels the goals they conceded last week were uncharacteristic and is confident the team will be able to respond on the pitch tomorrow night: 

“It’s not down to ability; last week it was just lapses. It’s not tired bodies, the conditioning and fitness is excellent, you mention tired minds, just switching off for a second or two and you’re punished. They’re as fit as ever and well-managed load wise. The second goal shocked everyone in the ground. Gav Molloy has been excellent, the nature of his game is he’ll be back on it and put on a top performance tomorrow. Their winner was a goal we wouldn’t normally concede. It probably did suck the life out of us, but there are two massive games coming up in the next week. Absolutely it’s not a time to be tired.”

Dundalk secured a big win on Monday night, defeating their relegation rivals St Pats 3-2 at Richmond Park. 

“It was an incredible game, I stayed until the end, great game to be on live TV. Brilliant for the league. We say it every week. This league is about fine margins, every game is so unpredictable. Like us last Friday, showed if there is a lapse or you’re not quite on it as a team or individual, you will get hurt. Incredible from Dundalk, and they are coming in good spirits and we will show them the respect they deserve, because they have quality everywhere.”

Duff heaped praise on Sean Boyd, who became the Reds joint top scorer last Friday night when he notched his 7th of the season, joining Will Jarvis. Duff also gave an insight into how important it is to manage the big man’s minutes:

“Sean has been excellent, I don’t need to explain why he isn’t in from the start. We have to manage Sean physically, he had a serious operation last season, missed almost the entire year. We want him to get through this year and we’re mindful of that, he has a big part to play. Sean knows and we know what we have to do.

“He has scored some big goals, but this is where we want the rest of the squad to chip in. It can’t be a one-man or two-man effort. We can’t put all the pressure on Sean and Will on the other side. We need more from midfield, deliveries into the box, everyone can be better. If we want to go anywhere, we need more goals from different players.”

The draw for the FAI Cup second round was made today, with the Reds drawn to face Bray Wanderers away. For Duff there was a feeling of déjà-vu as it’s a repeat of his first ever FAI Cup game as Shels manager:

“A familiar draw, in 2022 that was the first of four to get to a final. I won’t have a long travel time since it’s just down the road—a brilliant tie with some exciting games and some all-Premier clashes. We’re not concerned with that, we’re just worried about our own game. Yes, it’s a first division team, but a really tricky tie and one we won’t disrespect. We’ll fully prepare for sure and know Bray will be highly motivated and we’ll need to match that when the time comes.”

Tickets

Tickets for the Reds upcoming clash are available here: bit.ly/sfc1895

TV

Watch all the action on LOITV, coverage begins from 7:30pm with kick off at 7:45pm. Commentary from Adam Leonard and Shels legend Richie Baker.

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