Duff: “Points, permutations and goal difference, park it, we’re going to win the game.”

The Reds are on the road for the final game tomorrow of the 2023 League of Ireland Premier Division, Drogheda United provide the opposition at Weaver’s Park (7:45pm KO)

Damien Duff’s side go into the final game knowing victory would wrap up a fourth place finish and leave the Reds in the hunt for Europe, depending on the outcome of the FAI Cup final. 

Harry Wood and Will Jarvis were forced off through injury late on against UCD in a 3-2 win at Tolka Park a week ago. While Conor Kearns missed the game through illness.

After training in the AUL on Thursday, Duff delivered a positive injury update to ShelbourneFC.ie:

“Harry Wood and Will Jarvis are fine, they’ve trained all week, we have the exact same squad as last week available with one plus. 

“We’ve got Conor Kearns back as well, he was out with a virus last week. He trained today with no problems. Conor is feeling great. 

“JR Wilson is back so he’s a live option for us. He’s managing a bit of pain, but free to train and play. Jad Hakiki might need a small procedure at the end of the season but trained brilliantly all week. Sean Boyd is gone in for another small procedure on his upper leg area. Next time you’ll see him is in pre-season.” 

Meetings with Drogheda this season  have been keenly fought close contests, two draws home and away and a win in Tolka so far in 2023. Drogs have plenty of former Shels players in their ranks and Duff knows they’ll need to be at their best to take all three points:

“We’re highly motivated to win, listen we can’t get carried away looking at the bigger picture, points, permutations and goal difference, park it, we’re going to win the game. It’s as simple as that. We’re not overthinking it. We’re going to try to get the best team on the pitch and play on the front foot.

“It’s a hard game, there are not many places in the league as difficult as Weavers Park, it’s not going to be an easy task. I’m highly respectful of the job Kevin Doherty has done. There’s some former Shels lads there, players in the team and squad have an added incentive to turn us over. We need to be ready for that, go in with calm heads and do our job.”

The Reds survived a pre-halloween scare as UCD twice came from behind to give the Reds a rattle in the final home game. Duff feels the performance of UCD shows teams can find plenty of motivation even if their league position is sealed for the year:

“It has been mentioned to me, maybe it gives you a false sense of security if you put on a great show and do UCD proper last week, it wasn’t the case, it often never is at this stage of the season. If you had offered me a 3-2 win before the game, out of Tolka with 3 points, I would’ve taken it. I know we all dream of improving the goal difference, we’re in a good place. That’s done and dusted and now onto what is a massive game tomorrow night. 

Duff has had to contend with a mounting injury list during the season that deprived him of two of his best attackers, Sean Boyd and Matty Smith, the Reds boss is proud of how his players and staff have coped with setbacks this season:

“Not just this season,I think we’ve had a lot of setbacks over 2 years, whether it’s been tough results or low on bodies, me personally, I’ve probably surprised myself at how I handled it, never really got carried away good or bad. 

“We haven’t had a striker all year, never bothered me, I could use it in interviews or the press and wheel out excuses ‘awh the injuries’ like other managers do, but there’s no point.

“You go and flip it the other way, put the coaching hat on, ask yourself what can we do with our system, how can we press and play, how can we make the best use of the players we do have fit and available, I think the players and staff deserve all of the credit, hats of to them, no matter what happened, they were never downbeat, didn’t matter if we had a small squad, lots of injuries, bad results, they always got onto the next game with the right attitude, they’re a great bunch and it’s really there for everyone to see.” 

3,446 people were on hand last Friday for the final home game of 2023, the year Shels last won the League of Ireland title in 2006, that went down to the final day against Bohs. The corresponding game with UCD on the home stretch of that season had just 1,254 there that night. While football is the number one focus for Duff, the Reds boss takes great pride at the strides made off the pitch: 

“It’s why I said it’s been the best two years of my life, that’s down to staff and players, to take this club and help get it back to where it belongs, I guess that’s what puts bums on seats.

“I didn’t go to many League of Ireland games when I was younger but I know and fully believe that the heart and soul is officially back at Shelbourne FC, maybe at times over the last 20 years, difficult times, hard days for Shels supporters, you could debate was the thing that made the club special still there? Going up to Weavers Park tomorrow, I know it’s back, the heart and soul of Shels is there with a bang, let’s carry that with us away from home and get our part of the job done.”

Tickets for the Reds upcoming clash are sold out. The Tolka Bar will be showing the game live, it’s open from 7pm.

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