Burns: Let’s Not Get Carried Away
Dundalk captain Liam Burns says it’s where “everybody wants to be” but he insists the Lilywhites “mustn’t get carried away” despite sitting proudly at the top of the Premier Division for the first time since April 1995.The 31-year-old defender, who won the league with Bohemians two seasons ago, admits the players will “enjoy it while it lasts”, but he feels that the squad will be tested to its limits in the coming weeks as they face a gruelling schedule of six games in 17 days.
“It’s a great position to be in; it’s a great start by the lads and the club. But we’re a long, long way off. We’ve just got to keep working hard and keep putting in the performances,” Burns told dundalkfc.com. “We’ve got to keep working hard and see where we end up. It is a tight league; not many teams are getting beaten. Everyone knows your strengths and weaknesses. One thing about this league is if a team isn’t the best technically they’ll be fit, strong and organised. It’s still early doors and we, and the fans, mustn’t get carried away. There’s a long, long way to go. Over the next three weeks we’ll be really tested.
‘Long way off’
“We’re a long way off,” the centre-half reiterated when asked if he felt the club could challenge for a first top-flight title since they last sat at the summit 15 years ago. “Bohs are the champions. I know what it’s like there. They’re a great team for not playing well and winning games – that’s a sign of champions. We’re nowhere near winning the league yet. As I said, we’ve just got to keep working hard and see where we end up, and come July maybe add one or two more bodies to the team.” Friday’s win over UCD was their first at Oriel Park in 196 days; their last coming over Ian Foster’s Galway United last September (seven games ago). “I didn’t realise it was that long,” Burns admitted. “If you look at each team that does well in the league, their home form is quite good.
“We wanted to get our first home win on the board as quickly as possible after our two draws here,” he added. “It was a good performance by the lads but there’s another tough one coming up next Friday (away to Sporting Fingal). It’s going to be a difficult schedule. The games are coming thick and fast, and with the size of our squad we mightn’t have enough bodies. But, as I said at the start of the season, it’s up to young players to come in and take their chances. You look at the young players who have come in – Johnny Breen, Ciarán McGuigan and we have Nathan Murphy there – it’s up to them to come in and stake a claim. So, if one door closes another one opens for someone else. We’ve got very tough games coming up and it’s going to test our squad massively, but we’ll enjoy it while it lasts. Everybody wants to be top of the league but you gain nothing from it at this stage.
“It was a brilliant result for us,” he continued on the 3-0 win over UCD, the club’s first victory over the Students since October 1998 when Lee Thew and Shane Reddish were on the scoresheet in a 2-0 triumph. “I thought in the second half especially we put them on the back foot and pressed them high up the pitch. When you’ve got quality players in the team like JJ, Faz, Ross and Fenny we’ll create chances, and in the second half we took them. UCD matched us up and they dropped men behind the ball, and they tried to stop us from playing a bit. When they got the ball they played it and, to be fair, they’re not a bad team. They try to play football in the right way. The only way they were going to score was from our mistakes where we were trying to play a little bit too much in the first half in the middle of the pitch. Once the first goal came we knew we could get two or three because we’re decent at soaking up pressure.”
Second-half goals have been a regular occurrence for Dundalk this term as they have scored nine of their ten goals after the break, and Burns knows they will have to correct that sooner rather than later. “We’ve started games quite well, maybe except for the Bray game,” he said. “If you look back at the games, we have created chances in the first half; we just haven’t taken them. For some reason in the second half we seem to get stronger. That must say something about our fitness, but it’s something that we’ll have to address because we know as the season goes on when we’re on top we’ll have to take our chances. But the mood in the camp is fantastic. If you can’t enjoy a 3-0 home win you shouldn’t be in the game. We’ll enjoy this result but come Monday we know we’ve got to work hard and keep doing what we’re doing on the training pitch.”
JJ Melligan had put Dundalk on the road to victory with an expertly-taken goal on 55 minutes, but like Burns he says that it is too early to be getting excited about sitting on top. “It was a great result,” Melligan told dundalkfc.com. “I think they came for a draw but obviously we got the first goal. That set us off and we done very well in the second half. UCD set the tempo in the first half and they took us down to their kind of level – I don’t mean that in a bad way – they dictated a bit and we played to their tune, basically. But we upped it in the second half. Someone has got to be top of the league after six games, so it’s us now and hopefully we can hang onto it. But it’s so early that you don’t want to get carried away.”
It was the former Leyton Orient midfielder’s first competitive goal for the club having also netted on his debut in a friendly against Derry City on 20 February just over an hour after signing, and his performance earned him the NICE ONE Man of the Match award. “I’ve been getting close in the last three games,” he said.” I’ve not been far away but thankfully I got in yesterday and got my first goal.” The 28-year-old also says that his first seven weeks at Oriel Park have gone well. “I’m enjoying it,” he said. “It’s a lot different to England, obviously, but I’m enjoying it. The standard is decent. Hopefully we can continue on playing well and hopefully we can stay where we are.”