The Reds return to Tolka Park tomorrow for the final time before the summer break as Sligo Rovers provide the opposition. (7:45pm KO, live on LOITV).
Shels boss Damien Duff will have to plan without Kian Leavy and Paddy Barrett who remain out of action.
Reds boss Damien Duff delivered a squad update after training in the AUL on Thursday and revealed Brian McManus is also facing a prolonged spell on the sidelines. He told ShelbourneFC.ie: “Paddy Barrett and Kian Leavy are still out, we’ll be missing Brian McManus too, he has had an operation on his knee.
“Brian has been struggling with a chronic knee issue, which is why you haven’t seen as much of Brian as we would’ve liked. We decided to get it addressed now. Not sure of the timeframe, but it could be around 8-12 weeks minimum. Brian is a big loss for us, he’s a great boy, we love him to bits, we have to think for his welfare, we need to sort it. He is going to be missing for a while.”
The Reds go into the game off the back of the 3-2 win over Drogheda United at Tolka Park on Monday, that followed a solid away performances and points at the Brandywell against Derry City and Dalymount against Bohemian FC.
Duff is pleased with the path the team are on: “Form wise ye we’re seeing improvements, we’re into the second half of the season now and when I think back and how many times did I say last year where ‘oh we played well and didn’t pick up the points’, for a while it was was a lot of hard luck stories with us. We’re maturing, yes we are performing well but know we can perform better. But we’re picking up points. That is paramount. Monday is the perfect example, the first half isn’t overly good, the second half, we do enough to get the job done.”
After a string of fine individual displays, including a goal in the win over Drogs, Duff was keen to highlight the recent contribution of Shane Griffin: “Shane has been outstanding. In team meetings and personally, I have highlighted him and he knows how much we think of him. Shane has been great, had to respond to early setbacks this year and last year, look he started pre-season slowly and then got injured, 2023 was basically a mirrored image of when he first arrived in 2022. But the minute he came back, starting in Cork, Paddys Day, he has been absolutely immense, Shane is just getting better and better. He is a standard bearer, a real leader, although he often goes under the radar I think. A quiet, silent assassin, he has been class both on and off the pitch since he came here.”
Sligo arrive at Tolka having lost five of their last six games, despite their rough run of form, Duff is braced for a backlash from the Bit O’Red:
”They have some of the most coveted players in the league: Hartmann, Pijnaker, Mata, who are top players, Mata is still one of the top scorers. They have boys with experience who know how to get results in this league, who’ve been around the block, Greg Bolger is back now. We’re not fooled; they have quality and great coaches and a brilliant manager in John Russell, despite the results, they will turn it around, some team will get that backlash from them, they have quality all over the pitch. We have to ensure that we’re not that team and that it doesn’t happen at Tolka.
“We need the fans behind us from minute one, I’ve said it a good bit, it doesn’t have to be a goal; it could be a dribble that brings the place to life, even my own time on the wing, just beating a player can raise the energy in a ground, or a big tackle, like we say from Evan Caffey, Mark Coyle—they got the whole Riverside on their feet on a few occasions. It’s not just about scoring; it’s about waking up the stadium, whether it’s through a tackle or a confrontation.”
Sligo Rovers have conceded 6 goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half, only UCD (8) and Cork City (7) have conceded more in the League of Ireland this season. Duff knows a fast start tomorrow will be important:
“It’s an interesting statistic. We either start off quickly or not at all. The guys here, our focus is on starting well. It’s as simple as that: start well and finish well. Football is not complicated. This is the last game of a long, hard week. Sligo, some difficult results, they will come with fire and needing a reaction, so we need to match it and bring even more. The lads need to come with an edge, which we lacked the other day. In the first half, we were flat. Everyone believes the crowd in the Riverside will get us going, but we also need to get them going, give them something to get off their feet for, and feed off that and of course bring our own energy.”