Fantastic Honour But Points Important – Foster
Dundalk FC manager Ian Foster has admitted that he had “no idea” he was approaching his 100th competitive match in football management. But while the 34-year-old stated that it is “a fantastic honour…at such a young age”, he has set his sights on the “important” points available when Sligo Rovers visit Oriel Park on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm).
The Liverpool-born boss is set to lead the Lilywhites for the 59th time, having had 41 games in the dugout at Galway United in 2009, and he is keen for his side’s unbeaten league record at the border venue to continue. “It does at the minute,” he smiled when asked if it felt like 100 games. “It’s a fantastic honour for me. I’m delighted to get to that at such a young age. I’m really pleased. I had no idea that that was coming up, but it’s just important that we get points on the board. We need to continue getting points on the board at home, and hopefully we can do that tomorrow evening.
“Training has been bright, in fairness to the players,” he added, after they fell to a disappointing defeat in Derry last Friday. “It has been a long time since we’ve been able to have a full week’s training, with the amount of games that we’ve had. We have been able to work an awful lot on the negative side of things that we didn’t do really well up in Derry. But also on the flipside of things we’ve been able to work on things that we are good at as well. On Monday and Tuesday we got a lot of work into the players and we’re pleased with the work we’ve got in, and we’re really well prepared for the visit of Sligo.” Asked how he would approach the game, undoubtedly Dundalk’s toughest home fixture on paper to date, Foster said: “Like we approach every other game. We’ll pay Sligo the respect that they deserve. Paul Cook has assembled a fantastic squad and it will be a very, very tough game.
“However, we’re the home team and the emphasis is on us to play on the front foot and try to win the game,” Ian added, “and that’s exactly what we’ll try to do.” Foster took in Sligo’s Setanta Sports Cup semi-final first leg against Shamrock Rovers at The Showgrounds on Monday night, a game which the Bit O’ Red lost to goals in either half from Ronan Finn and Karl Sheppard. “In fairness to Paul and his players they had an off night,” Foster said. “Unfortunately, they couldn’t wait another five days and have it here! They are a very good side, and they’ve got excellent players all over the pitch. Monday was just an indication that we can all have these nights. We had one last Friday where things didn’t particularly go too well for us. Sligo had one on Monday. Hopefully, both teams will have those games out of their system, and it will be a fantastic spectacle.”
Sligo have recorded an impressive seven clean sheets in their nine competitive games this year, shipping goals against only Shamrock Rovers, in the league and Setanta Cup. But with the attacking threat of Daniel Kearns, Ross Gaynor, Mark Quigley and Jason Byrne, Foster is confident his side can break their opponents down. “Absolutely,” he said. “It’s going to be a difficult game regardless of their defensive record. Offensively, they’re very, very good. Both full-backs bomb forward and overlap the wingers. They play with a second striker, similar to ourselves, so that he’s dangerous when he gets on the ball, whether it’s Kirby, Russell, Ndo – whichever player he decides to play in there, they’ve all got bags of ability. We’re going to have to be very, very good on the night to get something out of the game.”
Dundalk are the only team still boasting an unbeaten home record in the Premier Division, and asked how important it is to keep that going, Foster said: “It’s important while we keep losing away from home! It’s something that we needed to improve on from last season. I thought our record at home could have been improved. Hopefully, we can continue doing that. We’ve had draws against the likes of Linfield, Glentoran and Bohemians and we’ve beaten Galway and UCD, so we’re pleased with our home form so far this season, and long may that continue.” The visit of Sligo is the first of eight games in a hectic 24-day period, and Foster admitted: “I think you always have to be worried and mindful that the players can give you everything you expect every time they take the field. We’re not in a position where we can make wholesale changes either, so it’s going to be difficult in that sense.
“We’ll adjust training to suit the players’ needs,” Ian added, “and hopefully we’ll get that right, we’ll get that balance right, and we’ll be OK going into games.” Commenting on Quigley’s Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month award, Foster concluded: “I think if he hadn’t have won it this month he would never have won it. He has been a revelation since he joined the football club. His performances have been fantastic, and his goals, and his goals per game ratio has been wonderful. It’s thoroughly deserved; I don’t think anyone else in the country could argue with Mark Quigley picking up that.” For the visit of Sligo, Foster remains without long-term injury victims, Stephen Maher (torn groin muscles), Greg Bolger (thigh strain) and Eoghan Osborne (broken leg).