Duff: “The message to the players this week has been about belief”

Shelbourne FC welcome League of Ireland Premier Division leaders Shamrock Rovers to Tolka Park tomorrow night. (7:45pm)

Damien Duff’s side picked up an important point on the road away to Dundalk last Sunday, with Harry Wood scoring in a 1-1 draw in Oriel Park.

In team news, Matty Smith and Brian McManus have stepped up their recovery, Duff will have to plan without the pair as well as Sean Boyd and Kameron Ledwidge:

“Kam will get a small operation on his knee to have fluid clearer, he’s going to be out for a few weeks. It is short term, a couple of weeks, rather than a long term setback. 

“Sean Boyd has a slight thigh strain. We’ll see how he fares with that. We were fearing the worst that it would be really bad and he might miss the rest of the season but the scans have shown the contrary. We’re pretty hopeful but we’ll have to see how Boydy heals now.

The Reds dug deep in Dundalk and their perseverance was rewarded as Harry Wood struck to keep them in the hunt for a top four finish, Duff feels the conditioning of the squad will be of vital importance over the coming weeks:

“We don’t empty our bench most weeks, over the course of 18 months we never really have, you can be assured Rovers will throw five subs on tomorrow, we’re never in a position to do that. 

“Depth wise, we’re used to rolling with a small bench so that has meant fitness and conditioning is key. We pride ourselves on that anyway, since day one, guys looked proper fit. We knew Dundalk had the game Thursday in Europe and an opportunity might open up late on when they tired, and we got our goal then in the last 10 mins. 

“Regardless, we pride ourselves on that. The lads going 90, 96, 98 minutes. Have to give credit to Mauro Martins, people may not realise how important he is, Mauro is elite, he’s genuinely world class at what he does, the club is lucky to have him.”

Having come from behind to get the result in the last game Duff believes that spirit is an illustration of how far the team has come on since being promoted, admitting it was the type of tight game they would’ve lost a year ago:

“I think that’s been mentioned a few times (that we’d have lost that last year), where we’ve dug deep to hang on for a win or nicking a draw, for me it shows the evolution and growth of the mentality of the players. That’s going to be really important over the coming weeks, we’re on the right path because I think most people would agree, rewind a year ago, same circumstances as Sunday and we don’t get a result last year after going 1-0 down in that game, it’s another hard luck story.”

Shamrock Rovers resumed League of Ireland action on Sunday with a 2-1 win over Cork City, that followed some disappointing results in Europe. Despite those setbacks in continental competition Duff feels Rovers are still the team to beat in Ireland:

“They’re the best team in the league, I’m a blow in to the League of Ireland but no doubt for me Rovers are the best team I’ve seen and hot favourites to win it again and make 4 in a row. Wouldn’t read into form, we played then in Tolka, it was six games into the season and they hadn’t won the previous 5, they were very good. 

“Regardless of whatever run of results, they have amazing quality, the best players, biggest and best squad, their last few weeks, form and setbacks in Europe is irrelevant, we know what to expect tomorrow.”

Meetings between Shels and Rovers in the Ringsend Derby have been dramatic in recent times, a frenetic 2-2 draw in Tallaght earlier this season, and a pulsating 3-2 defeat in the same venue at the back end of last season were great for the neutral, but not for those of a Reds persuasion. Duff feels its the kind of fixture that should be savoured by all involved from players, staff, supporters and neutrals alike:

“You do enjoy games like this, I guess, in a strange way, you can feel it around the dressing room and training ground, there’s a big game feel to the week. That’s why we’re in the game, that’s why when you retire you want to get back involved. We ran them close a few times, the frustrating thing is for all their quality it was us shooting ourselves in the foot that has prevented us from beating them in the past 18 months, the 2-2 draw, the 3-2 loss, we masterminded our own downfall in those games.” 

“The message to the players this week has been about belief, we haven’t beaten them yet since coming back up to the premier, but I think the players will go into tomorrow believing they can, I think getting a result in Oriel was very important to keeping that fire lit, that chase for a high league finish. Not only the result, but the performance, the lads showed calmness, composure and assurance. We know our goal and that’s Europe, the dream is very much alive, and I think the players will approach tomorrow with confidence. 


Tickets for the Reds upcoming clash are available here


Watch all the action on LOITV, coverage begins from 7:30pm with kick off at 7:45pm. Commentary from Adam Leonard and former Red Brian Flood.

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