Dundalk make the trip to Drumcondra on Friday night looking to make it three SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division wins on the bounce when they take on Shelbourne at Tolka Park.
After a torrid period which saw them lose four on the spin, Stephen O’Donnell’s men have responded positively, recording back-to-back wins over Cork City and Drogheda United at Oriel Park.
The win over the Drogs, coupled with results elsewhere, leaves the Lilywhites one point behind fifth-placed Shelbourne, and three behind fourth-placed Bohemians, with just five games to play.
One of Dundalk’s key performers in the victories over Cork and Drogheda was midfielder Paul Doyle. The 25-year-old has started the last three games, the first time he has put a run of consecutive appearances like that together since last summer, and scored the equaliser in the 3-1 win in last Friday’s 175th Louth Derby.
By his own admission, it has been a frustrating campaign for the Westport native – who has started just nine league games – but speaking ahead of Friday’s six-pointer, he said he was hoping to finish the season with a flourish.
“It’s not really been a good season for me overall, to be honest,” he said. “I’ve been out of the team for quite a long time.
“Obviously I had an injury at the start of the year which didn’t help things but I’ve struggled to get into the groove of things and put games together and I’m still not where I’d like to be yet, but we’re getting there.
“Starting three games on the bounce kind of gives you a chance to get back to that level again and I still feel like I’ve another few gears to get through but it’s good to get into a rhythm.”
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A win at Tolka Park would see Dundalk overtake Shels and move them level on points with Bohemians, who are in FAI Cup semi-final action this weekend, and keep their outside chances of European qualification alive going into the final furlong.
“There’s an awful lot still to play for,” said Doyle. “It’s all about taking it game by game and seeing how far down the stretch we can take it.
“There’s no point looking around at other scores or what other teams are doing. We just need to roll into Friday and see if we can turn Shels over away from home, which is a tough thing to do.
“They’re a good side, and they’re well organised, but if we go there and win, it goes on another week and that’s what we have to aim to do, to make it as competitive as we can down the stretch.”
This is the fifth and final meeting of the clubs this season. Dundalk won the first league fixture 2-1 at Oriel Park back in March before Shels ran out 4-0 winners in a Leinster Senior Cup tie at the same venue later that month. The two subsequent league matches both ended in a 1-1 draw.
Dundalk will be backed by a large travelling support on Friday night and Lilywhites head coach Stephen O’Donnell said the Lilywhites were intent on picking up a win at Tolka Park for the first time since February 2020 when goals from Andy Boyle and Patrick Hoban secured a 2-1 victory.
“I was very happy with our performance against Drogheda last week and we’re going to Tolka full of confidence,” he said. “Shelbourne were beaten by Shamrock Rovers last Friday, but they’ve been in a good run of form themselves. They’re a good side with a lot of well-drilled, good players, so it should be a decent game.”
Team News: Andy Boyle and Connor Malley are back in contention after overcoming calf and quad injuries respectively while Louie Annesley also returned to training this week after missing the last five games with a hamstring strain. John Mountney (knee) misses out.