Duff looks to sign off first round of games with a win

The Reds make the trip to Weavers Park to face Drogheda United in the League of Ireland Premier Division on Friday night. (7:45pm KO)

Damien Duff’s side finish off the first round of games hoping to extend their unbeaten run this season. From their opening 8 games, the Reds have taken 20 points. Leaving them top of the table, ahead of Sligo Rovers, Derry City and Shamrock Rovers.

Having had their weekend disrupted by a bug, Duff revealed its effect is still lingering ahead of tomorrow’s match:

“The bug is still floating around, some boys had it on their days off, and came through ok, we had a few players miss training today, it’s a 24 hour thing, so we’ll know closer to kick off what shape we’re in. Aside from illness, which has caused some problems we’ve no other injury concerns.”

Having managed to pick up an important point at home in the face of an outbreak of illness, Duff heaped praise on his players and staff, in particular the strength and conditioning coach Mauro Martins:

“Everyone plays their part, first and foremost before they get on the pitch, the job Mauro does is elite, people don’t realise how good he is. Maybe some people here at the club take it for granted, but the players and staff know how important he is to what we’re doing. Mauro is world class. The shape he has the players in is amazing. 

“I have to give the players huge credit as well, the buy-in from them was great, changing shape between Friday and Monday, particularly when it’s the defensive shape it’s never easy to tweak, how you’re going to press, then play with and without the ball. Their taking on knowledge and tactics was incredible and thought that played a big part in the result. Bizarre as it sounds we felt very secure against Derry, still thought we looked more dangerous on the attack and more likely to win the game, in the circumstances though, it’s a huge point.”

The Reds recent visit to Drogheda was a game for the ages, as Shels ended the season with a 4-2 win that secured a fourth place finish in the table, Duff feels its a game that they can take plenty from even months after the fact:

“Games against Drogheda home or away are always bloody tight. We know that, more often than not, it’s at home where they are at their best. Difficult place to come to Weavers Park, they are a well set up team and they have a good manager and a lot of talented players. Nobody will forget the game on November 3rd 2023, if needs be tomorrow night we can dip in to that and gain confidence from it, to go 2-0 down and still have complete and utter belief we would do the job, how calm we were in the chaos, it was a brilliant performance, I always think games are totally different but lads can take confidence from that one 100%, and it ended up being was such a big night in recent Shels history.”

Drogheda have had a string of good results this season and are built on a solid defensive foundation. Duff feels they are a formidable side who deserve more credit then they sometimes get:

“They always are very good and they frustrate you at times but they have the absolute quality to hurt you at the top end, Pierrot and Bawa are technically excellent, Davis off the side got a lot of ability, Markey we know what he can bring, then Foley lads shouldn’t need to be warned about his talent, just look at the two goals in November. It’s an amazingly difficult task. One I can’t wait for.”

The Reds have the joint highest goals scored in the first 8 games and the fewest conceded, Duff is pleased with their fast start to the season but not looking beyond the challenge of tomorrow night:

“You’re in with a good shout to win games if you combine defensive resilience with attacking flair. You can score as many as you want, but keep a clean sheet and it only takes one goal to win a  game. People look at stats. You can look too much into them, I’ve been more than happy with the guys. The exciting bit for us, and it’s been the same since I’ve got here, as the season goes, we are going to get better.”

The away end sold out shortly after going on sale and Duff has urged Shels fans to get behind the side from the first minute and make themselves heard:

“Brilliant it sold out so quickly, speaks volumes about where the club is at, players have given fans something to hope for and to hang on and believe in, we’ll need them tomorrow and as always, there will be tough moments, we’ll need their noise and their support. They’ve been brilliant and I know they will be again tomorrow.”

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