Andy Boyle is looking forward to an old-fashioned red-hot reception when Dundalk make the trip to Turner’s Cross to face Cork City in the final game before the League of Ireland’s mid-season break on Friday night.
The 32-year-old defender – who has started the last two games after recovering from a calf injury – was an integral part of the Dundalk side that went toe-to-toe with the Leesiders between 2014 and 2016 before he moved to Preston North End.
The rivalry had lost its edge when the Dubliner returned to Ireland in the summer of 2019 and the Rebels were relegated at the end of the COVID-shortened campaign a year later.
Cork returned to the top flight this season but after a run of six straight defeats, which saw manager Colin Healy depart, they have won their last four games on the spin under the guidance of sporting director Liam Buckley, assistant manager Richie Holland and head of academy Liam Kearney.
“They’ve been on a great run and, as we know from the games we had against them through the years, Turner’s Cross is always a tough place to go and they’ll have a big crowd behind them,” said Boyle.
“The rivalry isn’t what it was four or five years ago but it’s still a big game and the atmosphere should be similar to the old days when we were fighting it out every season.
“They have some good players and they’ve got a bit more of an identity now so you have to give them a bit of respect, but we’ve got our own threats and it’s about how we go and exploit their weaknesses.
“We’re coming off the back of a good win against UCD on Monday and we don’t want to be going into the mid-season break on a downer so we’re fully focused on coming home with three points.”
This will be the third meeting between the sides this season. A Cian Murphy strike secured Cork a 1-0 win in the corresponding game on Leeside on Easter Monday while injury-time goals from Cameron Elliott and Patrick Hoban saw Dundalk win a thriller at Oriel Park last month.
One of the subplots attached to Friday’s fixture centres around Hoban. The Loughrea man was a relative unknown when he arrived at Oriel Park from Mervue United 11 years ago but has gone on to etch himself in the history books, with his hat-trick in the 4-1 win against UCD moving him level with Joey Donnelly on 142 goals for the club.
Hoban and Boyle, along with another of the current squad, Keith Ward, signed for Dundalk on the same day in December 2012 and Boyle said that the signs were there from a very early stage that the former Mervue United man would go on to be special.
“We sort of knew straight away…as soon as we started training really, that he had very good attributes and something about him,” said Boyle.
“As we all know, physically he is very good and you can see from the goals against UCD that if you put the ball into an area, Pat will attack it like no other forward in the country.
“He’s like a throwback to the old number nines but it’s not just goals, his link-up play and the way he brings players into the game as well is massive.
“He has worked really hard from the minute he arrived at the club and it’s an amazing achievement. I have no doubt he’ll go on and break the record and make it really hard for anyone else to achieve.”
Ten of Hoban’s 142 goals for Dundalk have come against Cork City – no other player has scored more goals in the fixture than the Lilywhites captain – and Boyle said it would be pretty apt if he broke the record at Turner’s Cross.
“Knowing Pat, I’m sure he has that in mind,” smiled Boyle. “He’s got a decent record against Cork and considering how big the rivalry was for so long, it wouldn’t be a bad place for him to do it.
“It’s the last game before the break and we don’t want to be going into it stewing about a bad performance. We played well and won well on Monday and we want to get another good result to send us into the second half of the season in a positive mindset.”
Team News: Robbie McCourt is doubtful after missing the last two games with a groin injury while Alfie Lewis will also be assessed after sitting out the win over UCD with an ankle injury. Wasiri Williams returns after missing Monday’s game due to personal reasons. Robbie Benson and John Mountney remain sidelined with long-term injuries.