Duff: “This is the most difficult game we’ve had in months.”

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

Damien Duff’s side got back to winning ways last week as they defeated St Patrick’s Athletic 1-0 at Tolka Park. 

The Reds boss delivered an injury update after training on Thursday: “We have a near on full squad to choose from, Shane Griffin is still the only absentee. Paddy Barrett and Shane Farrell are back in after suspension which is great. We’re going to monitor Gav Molloy, he’s been struggling a bit this week, he’s had a stiffness in his neck that we’re keeping an eye on.” 

The Reds recovered from back to back loses with solid performances first against Shamrock Rovers in a 0-0 draw and then the victory over the Saints. Duff is delighted the squad have found their spark:

“It’s been a good week in training; the guys are brilliant, they are generally always on it. Sometimes you can feel something in the air, doesn’t even need to be on a pitch. We went through it in Galway, the seasons are long and hard, there will be highs and lows. The lads have trained really well, was the same last week and that was evident in the performances. Rovers on the Monday, Pats on the Friday, two top performances. We’re all looking to match those levels tomorrow in Dundalk.”

Duff will go head to head with a familiar face in the Dundalk dugout, Noel King has history with the Reds having served as caretake manager for a period in 2002 and then as womens manager from 2021-2023. He took over at Dundalk last week, guiding them to a win over Bohs in his first game in charge. Duff feels they are facing a massive challenge:

“I said to the players this morning, ‘This is the most difficult game we’ve had in months.’ I firmly believe it. It’s always a tough place to go Oriel Park, with a new manager in Noel King and a challenging surface. The new manager has rallied them, their senior players all back in, they all played last Friday, they’re playing with an edge, that made the difference. They wanted it more than Bohs. Fully deserved that win.”

“They have a lot of quality, but their real hunger and desire, along with Noel, Liam’s and Brian’s knowledge of the game and the league, are evident. We’re not reading too much into the table or their position. it doesn’t show the quality they have all over the pitch. It’s a very difficult game for us.”

Gavin Molloy ended April on the shortlist for the Player of the Month award, despite the team having a blip on the pitch Duff is unsurprised to see the defender’s individual talent recognised:

“He’s like a Rolls Royce; he doesn’t announce his presence from the rooftops. He lets his football do the talking. Gav is a joy to work with both on and off the pitch. It’s no surprise he’s up for Player of the Month, his quality and his consistency are there for all to see, I’m never surprised to see him in the Team of the Week.”

Heading into Friday’s game in Dundalk and Monday’s trip to Derry City, Duff says they are approaching it with a good week of prep completed:

“This week, lads put in a lot of work on Monday and Tuesday. Thursday was lighter, just some walkthroughs. Tomorrow’s match day in Dundalk, so Saturday is just recovery. Sunday, we’re back on the pitch, preparing for matchday minus one.

The only real change to routine is that we trained on astro turf all week. It’s a bonus having these two games back to back because it gave us the chance to get accustomed to the astro. It’s a different surface, the Dundalk one is not the same as Derry, but it was important to get a feel for the ball on it and how it moves so we’re ready for these games.”

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