Duff: “I’ll be showing respect to this competition”

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Shelbourne FC make their long awaited bow in the 2023 Leinster Senior Cup on Friday as Dundalk provide the opposition at Oriel Park. 7:45pm kick-off.

Shane Griffin put in a man of the match display as the Reds beat Cork City on St Patrick’s Day in the League of Ireland premier division clash at Turners Cross.

Mark Coyle, JJ Lunney and Paddy Barrett were among those who missed out through injury.

Head coach Damien Duff delivered a squad update ahead of tomorrow’s game. He told ShelbourneFC.ie: “The lads got a well deserved weekend off but with so many injuries we are limited in what we can do. It’s been a low key week. 

“We’re still managing a lot of injuries. To give you an example, we had 11 training and 11 out injured watching it this week. It shows you where we’re at. 

“Tomorrow will be a mixed team, we’re going to have young boys involved. People will get a look at a few 19s. One or two will start. They’ll be looking at it as an opportunity and we have high expectations for those lads.”

The Reds picked up a valuable away 2-0 victory on Leeside a week ago. Duff hopes that performance can serve as a springboard as his side continues to grow in confidence:

“It’s a really good performance and we were really pleased with the result. It’s one of our most complete performances of the season.

“The win against Bohs was up there as well in terms of energy and quality, not pretty at times but we had an edge there and that bit of quality when it mattered. Both felt like proper performances. It was good to see the display get the result it deserved, Bohs at home, going away to Cork, that’s a real game, real atmosphere, and the lads rose to that and embraced it.”

Duff also paid tribute to the travelling support who made the trek South and brought a brilliant atmosphere to Turners Cross: “They were outstanding, what I expect to be fair from them, they are consistent, unwavering, their support away and home this year has been amazing.

“The funny thing is we actually could’ve been more there I’m sure but Cork stopped selling tickets at 1pm the day before, bit of a bizarre thing to do, makes life hard for our fans who on the day if they want to make the trip. Disappointing for those you couldn’t get down then because the sales were stopped. We won’t take anything away from people that travel down.

“It goes in tandem, I think the performance from the lads on the pitch gave the lads in the stand something to get behind.” 

While most clubs will play friendly games in the International window the Reds are facing into a competitive fixture, belatedly starting the Leinster Senior Cup after previously being given a walkover to the next stage after Dundalk were removed from the competition. The Louth club were reinstated on appeal. Duff says they’re looking forward to finally playing the game:

“It’s a funny one, you’d still be looking for a game this week, when it’s competitive you want to really win it and play with an edge. There’s a prize at stake. It’s not easy with the injuries we’re dealing with, we’re going to have to manage it. 

“Boys that thought they’d get a week off and who probably need a rest will be playing, because we’re tight for bodies. Listen I’ve said it in Cork, I’ll be showing respect to this competition, we’ll have a strong enough team but a markedly different team than played a week ago. We’ll be competitive.”

“6-8 weeks ago if the game was played when it was originally drawn, it might be a completely different approach from them, maybe they play a lot of young kids, now they have senior lads who need minutes so we expect to face a strong Dundalk side tomorrow. 

“There’s a carrot there and we’re expecting a proper game, taking into account the edge in the match a few weeks back and then the way that ended on our last visit anyway, we’re going to respect the cup, respect the opposition, and I know Stephen O’Donnell will do the same.”

Luke Byrne and Jack Moylan’s fine form was recognised as they were included in the League of Ireland’s Team of the Week. Duff was pleased to see them make the cut but admits he was surprised one or two others did not:

“Could’ve had a few of our lads in there, Conor Kearns has been immense, four clean sheets and only conceded 3 goals in 6 games, Gavin Molloy too, has been doing very well, Shane Griffin first game back and he’s man of the match. Evan Caffrey too, growing with every performance, how they didn’t make it, I’m not sure.

“Glad to see Lukey in there, we’re going to have to manage him with the chronic stuff he has got going on, he doesn’t mind me saying it. Luke is powering on through the pain He’s a warrior. I stand by it, I said it last season, I meant it, he’s the best captain I’ve ever worked with. Going to war every week with Luke is a genuine privilege for me. Jack has high ambitions, young kid, he wants to get to the top level and I want to help him get there. Boys at the top end of the pitch are all about stats, Jack is hungry for goals and assists, he knows that there could’ve been more this season and we’re excited to see him step up now.”

Off the pitch, David O’Connor’s departure was confirmed this week. The CEO spent 5 years at the helm of the club and Duff paid tribute to the Meath man:

“David is moving on, I wish him all the best in his professional career and the next chapter to come and his personal life as well.

“David played a big part in bringing me to the club, that’s a life changing moment for me, I think people can see what Shelbourne FC means to me, for that I’ll always be grateful.”