Oriel Park will be rocking on Friday night as League of Ireland football returns after the international break with a mouth-watering clash between the two most dominant clubs in the country over the past decade.
Reigning champions – and four-in-a-row hunting – Shamrock Rovers will make the trip north looking to pick up their first win of the season at the seventh attempt. A return of five points from their opening six games means that Stephen Bradley’s men are currently sitting third from bottom of the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division table.
In the home corner, Dundalk will be looking to build on an impressive start to the campaign which has the Lilywhites nicely placed in third position, four behind the early pacesetters, Bohemians.
Stephen O’Donnell’s men went into the break on a high thanks to Connor Malley’s late winner in the Louth Derby against Drogheda United at Weaver’s Park and a win on Friday night would move them nine points clear of the Hoops.
Since O’Donnell’s return to the club as head coach in late 2021, Dundalk have lost just one of the 21 league games they have played at Oriel Park and Rovers have found life difficult on the Carrick Road over the past 15 years.
Indeed, since Dundalk were promoted back to the top flight in 2009, the sides have played 24 league games at Oriel Park with Dundalk coming out on top on 11 occasions – including the last meeting between the sides at Oriel in June of last year – while there have been seven draws and just six Rovers victories.
Hayden Muller is available despite being sent off in the Leinster Senior Cup tie with Shelbourne but Paul Doyle and Louie Annesley are doubtful while John Mountney is a long-term absentee.
Quotes – Stephen O’Donnell
“It’s the perfect fixture to come back from the international break to. You always look out for the games against the top teams and Rovers are champions and obviously going for four in a row. It’ll be a brilliant atmosphere at Oriel and we’re really looking forward to it.
“People have asked me about potentially moving nine points ahead of them if we win but I don’t read too much into that. It’d be different if you had totally honed it down to it being a two-horse race between us and them, right from the get-go, and you had the luxury of saying there were only two teams in with a chance of winning the league, but that’s not the case.
“There are so many other teams that are capable of going on their own run and being capable of being there at the back end of the season. I think it’s more even this year and there are clubs that have been aggressive in the transfer market and are built for making a title challenge.
“Rovers are definitely going to be one of the teams that are up there come October, November, without a shadow of a doubt. They haven’t won a game yet but they also haven’t lost too many either. We know what they possess from a quality standpoint and their start to the season won’t make one bit of difference to our mindset or how we’re going to approach the game.
“For me, it’s black and white. If we’re firing on all cylinders, we’re more than a match for anyone. If not, we’re very capable of slipping up against anyone. Our main focus is on what we bring to the party. Win, lose or draw, if I feel that we brought our maximum to it, I’ll be happy with that.”
Quotes – John Martin
“It’s always a big game against Rovers and I’m sure Oriel Park will be packed out for it. We’ve had a good week of training and we’re looking forward to it. It’s the kind of game you pinpoint at the start of the season and if we can get the three points, we can really kick on from it.
“We put ourselves into a good position with our results before the break and everyone is flying in training and I think it’s hard for the gaffer to pick a team, which is exactly what he wants. There’s quality everywhere in the squad but we feel we have another level to get to and it’d be great to show that against Rovers on Friday night.”
Referee: Arnold Hunter
Assistants: Emmett Dynan and Chris Campbell
Fourth Official: Adriano Reale
Stand tickets are sold out. Ground tickets are available from the office at Oriel Park while a very small number of juvenile tickets remain. After this point, tickets will only be available to juveniles in the higher-priced categories. We would advise fans who want to buy a ground or juvenile ticket to purchase them as soon as possible and we would encourage all of our supporters to get into the ground a little bit earlier than usual.
The match sponsors are Baker Tilly Kirk, a leading multi-disciplinary firm consisting of some of the most trusted business advisors in the northeast of Ireland. Led by partners Eddie Kirk and John Donnan, the team at Baker Tilly Kirk has worked with, and focused on, mid-market, entrepreneurial, owner-managed and family-owned businesses since 1985. Baker Tilly Kirk is a Republic of Ireland representative of Baker Tilly International, one of the world’s leading networks of independently owned and managed accountancy and business advisory firms, and is a global provider of assurance, tax and consultancy services.
Refreshments, Food & Drink
The Lilywhite Lounge and Enda McGuill Suite will be open from 6.30pm on Friday. Cash only in both bars. Hot food will be available from our Match Night Food Partners, Mullens. Coffee, tea and hot beverages will also be available from our Coffee Partners, The Brew Crew, in the ground and from the Enda McGuill Suite.
Rayhaan Tulloch is the cover star of the 32-page match programme which will be available before the game for just €4.
How can I follow the game?
There will be pre-match, in-game and post-match updates across all of the club’s official social media channels – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
The match will also be broadcast on radio with Adrian Taaffe and John Flanagan providing commentary on LMFM while John Murphy and Gerry Cunningham will also be on your wireless on Dundalk FM.
Alternatively, you can tune into the same commentary team on LOITV which is streaming the match live for just €7. Supporters can also avail of an LOITV Season Pass which costs just €120 and gives access to all matches across the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division, Men’s First Division and Women’s Premier Division.