Shelbourne FC make the short trip across the city to face UCD in the League of Ireland at the Belfield Bowl on Friday (7:45pm KO).
The Reds go into the game looking to make it 3 away wins on the spin having beaten Cork City and Dundalk in recent trips.
After a number of weeks of injury issues Head coach Damien Duff is dealing with a full deck. He told ShelbourneFC.ie that things are looking up once again on that front:
“We had a good week’s training finishing off today, everyone in good form. Lads working hard. Great to have more bodies out on the pitch. Injuries wise its only the long term absentees we’re without, Sean Boyd and Conor Kane.
“Happy to get JJ Lunney and Mark Coyle back into the team last Friday, I thought they did very well, looked sharp after a little spell out injured. Very happy with the display, considering it was under difficult circumstances, playing against a top team with 10 men. Never easy, but the lads were great. Worked hard and great to have them in the mix again now tomorrow
“Listen we will have to use the squad wisely with a Friday – Monday turnaround, JR Wilson will be ok, he had an impact on the hip and went off early against Derry City, but back on the pitch and we expect him to play.
“We’ve plenty of options now to choose from, Luke went off with a slight issue, but he’s fit. Paddy Barrett’s out with suspension, he’s fit for Monday and with the turnaround we’ll use the squad”
The Students have endured a difficult start to the 2023 season. They are rooted to the bottom of the table having taken just a single point from 7 games so far this season. Duff though feels the Reds would be foolish to underestimate them:
“UCD are a good side, their current position probably does not reflect the talent they have, they get more dangerous the longer that wait for a win goes on.
“We won’t be disrespecting them, we won’t be showing up with the mentality that we just have to walk out there to win, we’re expecting a tough, competitive game.
“UCD have lost more quality than anyone in the League of Ireland in the last 12 months. Liam Kerrigan, Colm Whelan, Evan Caffrey, Thomas Longergan, four of the brightest young players in the country, really top players in this league
“I’ve a lot of respect for Andy Myler and he deserves huge credit for what’s been achieved there. Keeping them up in the division last year, winning the playoff, they are a dangerous team. People go out the door, but they always have players ready to replace them.”
“Our lads will be up for it, I don’t accept the suggestion or mentality that it’s easier to lift your levels or motivate yourself for the Derry game or the Dublin derbies. I hate that mentality to be honest, if there’s players who are struggling to get up for tomorrow they shouldn’t be here.”
Earlier today the club confirmed that Gavin Molloy has put pen to paper on a new deal. Duff feels to secure his signature so early in the campaign is a big boost to the side and sends out a positive message to the fans:
“We work off a tight budget so I’m grateful to the board that it was greenlit straight away, now we need to keep building.
“I think it’s an important message to the fans, it shows that myself, the staff and club are all aligned, we’re not thinking short term.
“The vision is clear and it’s a long term play and getting Gav’s future secured at the club is a big part of that. He has ambitions to go to England, but as long as Gavin Molloy is playing in the League of Ireland, Shelbourne FC is the only place he wants to be.”
With the return of a number of players in recent weeks competition for places has increased. Duff admits staff meetings to pick the team at times were short affairs last season as they operated off a thin squad, this year, thankfully discussions take a little longer:
“We’ve a deeper squad, staff meetings are longer, probably Monday and Tuesday when the conversations on the starting XI are had, it took a lot longer than last year.
“We’re not taking our eyes off tomorrow, but you do have to plan line-ups over the days, we have a fair idea for the Sligo game line-up.
“We can’t understate that these two are very important games and I think in some ways will go a long way to deciding what way we go this season.”
“Of course we’ve done our work on them and watched a lot of clips in the meeting but for me it’s all about us.
“Many times you win a game when you deliver a high quality performance, we know that’s what we need to see first and foremost.
“We’re demanding a high quality performance from the players, I want to see energy, intensity, desire, that’s what I’m asking. I don’t want to ask the players how much do you want this? I want to see the answer on the pitch.”
Tickets for the game are available here: UCD (A)