Duff relishing clash with Drogs

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Team news | Shelbourne v Drogheda United, Head in the Game Park, 7:45pm, Friday 12th of August

Shelbourne Head Coach Damien Duff has no fresh injury concerns ahead of Friday’s trip to Head In The Game Park to face Drogheda United. 

The last time the Reds were in SSE Airtricity League action was July 22, when they defeated UCD 2-0 away from home.

The visit of St Patrick’s Athletic to Tolka Park last Sunday was cancelled on Friday, with the Saints failing to fulfil the fixture owing to travel issues.

In team news, Jad Hakiki is closing in on a return to action, the young midfielder is managing his load and did some light training this week having not featured since the 3-1 win over Finn Harps at Tolka Park on July 8th. 

The 18 year-old is recovering from a minor injury and also battled a bug in recent weeks. Mark Coyle is stepping up his road to recovery, but the clash with Drogheda United will come too soon for the midfielder.  

Dan Hawkins also remains sidelined with injury. Sean McSweeney has been released. New signing Matty Smith, who made a deadline day switch from Derry City, made an instant impact in the 3-0 win over Bray Wanderers in the first round of the FAI Cup.

A second half substitute, the Scottish attacker registered a clever assist for Jack Moylan on what was a perfect debut. 

Duff told Shelbournefc.ie: “Matty has been brilliant, he settled well with the lads and the week’s training will stand to him. He knows Shane Griffin from his time at Pats, he knows what we’re about here.

“I told Matty when he signed, I’ll never put him under pressure for goals and assists, I want to see energy, work rate and pressing from him, when we don’t have the ball, pressure opponents and defend from the front.

“I was happy with Matty’s contribution in Bray, he showed his quality and managed to get that assist.”

Drogheda United are 8th place in the table, and have recorded 1 win in their last 5 outings, which came courtesy of a 5-1 demolition of Athlone Town in the FAI Cup. 

Duff said: “It’ll be a tough game, they’re a decent side, nobody waltzes out of their place with 3 points easily. We have to work hard and earn the right to compete against them.

“They’ll want a response from their last game, they’ll want to react positively to that defeat, maybe there’ll be some players with a point to prove, there’s a few ex-Shels lads at the club, they might want to prove me wrong for letting them go, we know they’ll be up for it, and we have to match that.

“We’ve trained well this week, in testing conditions, the heat has been tough on the players. We know Drogheda will bring an intensity and we’ll need to be ready for that. 

Conor Kane returns to face his former club, having moved to Shels from the Drogs for the start of this season. Duff was keen to point out what a positive impact the defender has made since arriving at Tolka Park: “He’s been brilliant for us, his stats, everything he does is top of the pile.

“It’s probably the hardest job in world football, you’re playing two positions, full back and winger. Conor has been a top performer, he deserves a lot of credit.”

Duff also saved particular praise for Shels skipper Luke Byrne who has featured in every game for the Reds this season: “Luke is probably very close to legend status at this club, the fans see and appreciate what he does. 

“He’s an amazing presence, a real leader. The middle centre back position suits him down to the ground, he’s a captain through and through, the way he organises and drives standards is what we want from our senior players”