Duff: “It is brilliant to be back in action this weekend”

The Reds return to League of Ireland Premier Division action on Friday night as Dundalk visit Tolka Park (7:45pm KO)

Damien Duff’s side will be looking to continue to build on a positive start to the season which has seen them win 5 and draw 1 of their first six games.

It promises to be a blockbuster weekend of Easter action at Tolka Park as Dundalk visit on Friday, while Easter Monday sees the Reds entertain Derry City.

The Reds had a full training programme and in house game during the international window.

After the break from competitive action Duff is eagerly awaiting the return of the only show in town:

“It is brilliant to be back in action this weekend. The last 2 weeks has highlighted that the leading light of Irish football, is not the National team but the League itself. It is bigger, better, more exciting and more important. Every true Irish football fan has been waiting for this Friday, nothing else.

Duff delivered an injury update to ShelbourneFC.ie following training at the AUL on Thursday and the Reds boss is preparing for the upcoming games with a near fully fit squad to choose from:

“John Martin is back with us, he had his first full day training today, he’s fit and available for selection. Shane Griffin is finishing his last few days of rehab. We’ll have Griff back training early next week, outside of that everyone is fit and well and ready for the weekend.”

The Reds begin the night top of the table on 16 points, 5 clear of Derry City who are in second place but Duff is not getting too excited by the solid start:

“The message to the players is stay grounded, humble and keep working hard, minute we come off who we are and let ourselves get carried away, in any sport that’s when you’re in trouble. The lads know, they don’t need me to tell them, if you smell yourself after a few games you can fall. What we need to do is just continue to be true to who we are, keep working hard, we’ll be on the right path”.

Dundalk begin the night at the bottom of the table, and go into Friday in search of their first win of the season. A wounded Dundalk are a dangerous opponent for the Reds and Duff knows it: 

“It’s a tough game and we’re under no illusions, it’s a massive task ahead of us. Our players watched them this morning and are also aware of the quality they have. They probably are not too happy with their start, Stevie O’Donnell will be disappointed, but they have quality everywhere, massive players in their team, brilliant manager and staff who’ve won more in the league than I’ve won. 

“Results can be a bit misleading, they have come out on the wrong side of tight games, but played well, it’s a fine line in football, we’ve come out on the right side of tight games. There’s not much in it and it’s as tough a game as we can play in this league, as we’ve faced them before we know how good they are. Forget the table, I’m not looking at where we are or where they are because it won’t make much difference tomorrow night.”

Duff feels the most encouraging aspect of their start to the season is his side will continue to improve over the coming weeks and months:

“That’s early season football, you can’t say any team is in full swing or full flow in the first round of games, they are chaotic games. The exciting thing for us, this season will mirror the first two seasons here. Just who the group is and how they grow we know over the season we know we are going to get better and better.” 

Monday’s meetings with Derry will be a clash of the top two early season pace setters. While it is too early for defining moments Duff believes the next week will be very important nonetheless:

“It’s important to pick up as many points as you can early doors, in round one or round four, doesn’t matter where the points come, they’re worth the same. We want to keep building and keep building big and quick, six points on offer over the weekend, 9 points over the next seven days, it’s going to be a week of movement.

“We’re playing very good and powerful sides in Dundalk, Derry, Drogheda, and we want to finish off round one by hitting our goal, we have a points target for each round and that’s our focus now is on hitting that by next Friday night. I’m pleased of course with the start, how could I not be? 

“You’re winning games, really pleased with how we won it against Pats, like I said we’re very grounded, maybe teams in recent years have got off to good starts and got carried away, I don’t get carried away, I probably fear the worst rather than anything. So I won’t be getting carried away. We’ve to keep going, we’ve got an aim points wise and hopefully we can hit that.” 

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