Duff urges Reds to play with freedom and confidence

The Reds return to Tolka Park on Friday for the visit of UCD in the League of Ireland Premier Division. (7:45pm KO)

Damien Duff’s side picked up four points from a possible six over the course of the May Bank Holiday weekend double header.

Matty Smith and Jack Moylan got the goals in Tolka Park last Friday as Cork City went down 2-1 to the Reds.

Evan Caffrey was the hero in Drogheda on Monday as his late free kick snatched a share of the spoils as the Reds picked up a point on the road with a 1-1 draw.

Injuries continue to cause issues for the Reds, but they will be buoyed by the return of Matty Smith from suspension, the in-form Dundee native missed Monday’s meeting with Drogs.

Duff will also welcome back Mark Coyle who is once again available for selection, the Reds boss told ShelbourneFC.ie: “Mark Coyle is back training, he will be in the squad. We’ll have to be careful with Mark’s load; we don’t want him to breakdown again.

“It’s a hamstring issue he’s been dealing with, bit left field because it’s not a strength issue, he’s as strong as they come. We’re trying to get to the bottom of it so we’ve no recurrence, but Mark is back a week and looks strong.

“Gav Molloy is back jogging, he’s another few weeks away yet but Gav is a quick healer. We’re hopeful he’ll be back before the summer break. 

“Shane Farrell is still suspended, Sean Boyd as people might have seen is back running, we’re hoping he may be back out on the pitch before the break, which would be brilliant after a serious operation.

“Conor Kane is also making good progress, it is a boost for the whole squad to see him getting closer, they think so much of him, he’s back doing light work a few weeks, I’ve had these injuries in my career and you don’t rush them so he’s still a while yet. Could argue do you give him 20 mins against Wexford on Monday, but the minute you put him in this soon you’re taking a big risk.

“We’re going to ease Conor back in, it’ll be U19s football first, get the sharpness back, manage the minutes, and then he will be in first team consideration. Kian Leavy is waiting on further scans, we’re going to continue to monitor him.” 

The 1-1 draw with Drogheda United on Monday extended the Reds unbeaten run to six games on the spin, the longest streak since going 9 league games without defeat in the title winning 2006 campaign, Duff said:

“I think that shows some progress, every record we match or approach seems to be 2006, you could argue the lads are on a good run of results, unbeaten, yeah, but like I said on Monday, I still want us to hit the levels I know we can go up to and put in a more complete performance with the ball, hopefully that starts tomorrow”

“I want us to settle down, we’re still waiting on the rest of the league to do the same, but I want to see us just focus on playing our own game. We got the result on Monday without playing well. 

“Look in hindsight, missing 5 or 6 potential starters, could argue it’s a very very good point, in the circumstances.” 

Matty Smith’s good form was rewarded with a place in the Team of the Week, while Jack Moylan has been shortlisted for the Player of the Month award. The Reds have scored in each of their last 5 games, and Duff feels they’ve made solid progress on the attacking front:

“There’s a lot of chat that we don’t score a lot of goals and maybe we’re defensive or organised. In a normal training week, most of what we work on is being expansive with the ball and attacking patterns of play.

“Defensive setup and the work on that is on Thursday mainly and a couple of patterns of how we defend, we look at our clips, and how we set up.

“80-90% of our training week we’re working on breaking down teams and building on our attacking play.

“I think that’s starting to come to fruition with the lads looking dangerous in front of goal, on Monday we’ve gone 1-0 down, haven’t played well and still had the better chances to win the game.

“It comes down to lads at the top end playing with freedom and confidence that top end boys should play with, particularly lads with the talent that some of our boys have.

“I’ve said it before guys like Matty Smith and Jack Moylan, they are some of the most feared attacking players in the country.” 

The Reds face a UCD side who took a point of Bohs in a very credible draw last Friday night, before suffering a narrow loss to Dundalk. Duff knows his side will be eager to make up for their performance after a disappointing draw in Belfield a few weeks back:

“Last time we played UCD, it wasn’t good enough. We can’t have a repeat of that performance, we all take full responsibility, players, staff, coaches, everyone, we were really poor there.

“I take responsibility for half time and how I spoke to the players, because you could argue they were even worse in the second half than the first.

“But we need to put that behind us now tomorrow. Our pre match meeting was focused on that game, we looked at all the poor play from the Bowl, not a great watch, it’s so bad its bewildering.

“I’m hoping that might prod them in some way, watching that game you could forget we’ve top players, wonderfully gifted guys, when they play so poorly, I take responsibility, but they should too and I know that putting that right tomorrow is their only focus.

“If they’ve got pride as a team and squad, they should be looking to put that performance right tomorrow night, because the last time we played UCD, the performance hurt and upset a lot of people.”  

“There’s no easy games, it doesn’t matter if the team is above you or below you in the table, UCD are a good team, Drogheda, as well, good team, you’ve seen everyone who’s gone there and struggled, no doubt we have.

“Our Tolka mentality is must win, it’s always the same. Even Dundalk a few weeks ago, that was our mindset, ‘we must win this’ and I think that’s to plant seed of where we want to go in the league this year.

“Tomorrow is the exact same for me. It’s a must win game, because especially home games decide where you’re going to end up. We’ve spoken about it, people know our ambition, we have been clear about our aims, and if we’re to get there we can’t leave points behind.”

It’s been a tumultuous week off the pitch with managerial changes at Richmond Park and Turners Cross, Tim Clancy departed St Patrick’s Athletic, while Duff’s former Republic of Ireland teammate Colin Healy left Cork City. The Reds boss shared his thoughts on the developments at their rivals:

“It’s never nice to see managers leave their jobs. I feel for Tim and Colin. I have known Colin for a very long time. I was surprised with that news, he’s a class act and a class guy. 

“I find that really strange. I don’t think they’ll get a better manager there. It’s a big loss for Cork. Whatever has gone on behind the scenes I don’t know. 

“The job Colin has done there as a player, amazing, what he’s brought to Cork since coming in as manager, stabilising the club, returning them to the Premier Division, he’s done such a good job, he’ll be a big miss. Colin is a class act since I met him on and off the pitch, a great guy and I’m sad to see him go.”

Shelbourne FC are asking all fans in the ground to join us in a minute’s applause at the 48th minute of the second half tomorrow’s game with UCD at Tolka Park as a show of solidarity with the families who lost loved ones in the Stardust tragedy.

The Stardust Fire Inquests are taking place in Dublin this week as families who have long sought justice and truth submit their testimony.

The loss of the 48 young victims had a profound impact on the local community who are still grappling with the tragedy to this day, and the loss has touched many Shelbourne fans, including the Frazer family, who lost their beloved Thelma.

Duff says the thoughts of all at Shelbourne FC are with the families and hopes they might finally get the answers they have waited for:

“In the 48th minute, our minds will be on the families of the 48 Stardust victims. Our club is rooted in the community, and this had such a terrible impact on the lives of so many. 

“The families should know we’ll support them, we stand with them, they’ve waited decades for answers. It’s never been investigated properly. My mam and dad used to go out there to Artane, to the Stardust, I’d say it’s the same for many of the staff and their families. 

“For those 48 people to go there and never come home to their loved ones is a terrible tragedy. One that’s close to home to many Shelbourne people, who I’m sure will be here tonight. We stand with them, they have our support for their families and loved ones. I hope that at this inquest the truth finally does come out, it’s long overdue.”  


Tickets for the Reds upcoming clash are available here


Watch all the action on LOITV, coverage begins from 7:35pm with kick off at 7:45pm.

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