Stephen O’Donnell says he is looking forward to a big week ahead which will culminate with Dundalk locking horns with Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park on Friday night.

A Dundalk win would put nine points between the Lilywhites and the reigning champions with just seven games played and O’Donnell said he was happy with how his squad was shaping up going into the heavyweight showdown.

“The lads who played against Shelbourne were in for recovery on Saturday and the lads who didn’t all trained and we’re looking forward to a good week ahead of the game on Friday.

“Dundalk Rovers is a fixture you always look forward to. They haven’t won any games yet but they haven’t lost many either and they carry a lot of weapons and a lot of good players.

“Performance-wise, they’ve been good and sometimes results can be a bit of an imposter so we’re under no illusions what they’ll bring but we also know that we can be really competitive and really good ourselves.

Alfie Lewis in action against Shelbourne in the Leinster Senior Cup tie at Oriel Park. Photo: Gerry Scully

“I’m really happy with where we are, in regards to options. Seven or eight lads didn’t play against Shelbourne on Friday night. We have lots of high-calibre players in our squad and there’ll be good competition for places going into the game.”

Reflecting on the 4-0 defeat to Shelbourne in the Leinster Senior Cup, O’Donnell said that, result aside, he was happy with most of Dundalk’s performance.

“We had two options when we went down to 10 men,” he said. “We could’ve gone 4-4-1 but we were short of defenders and I wasn’t willing to take any of the first team players off to be a little bit more secure so we stayed aggressive with the personnel we had on.

“I thought there were some very, very good passages and I loved the enthusiasm and the work rate of our lads. We were probably a little bit unrealistic in regard to our shape but we stayed aggressive and that’s what I wanted from the game. I wanted lads to get minutes, I wanted lads to work really hard, and I thought there were some really good individual performances as well.”

Robbie Benson protests to referee Rob Harvey after Hayden Muller’s red card in the Leinster Senior Cup tie with Shelbourne at Oriel Park. Photo: Gerry Scully

The pattern of the game was set when Hayden Muller was shown a red card after just six minutes but thanks to an agreement in place between the FAI and the Leinster FA, the former Millwall defender will not serve a league suspension.

“We’re obviously delighted with that,” said O’Donnell, “because I was unsure when it happened. Was there a need to send someone off in a Leinster Senior Cup game? I suppose Rob Harvey will say he had to do it by the book and the rules are the rules.

“It was disappointing for Hayden because we would’ve liked to have given him 90 minutes. He was due to start the game in Drogheda but picked up a little bug before it but the positive thing is that he’s not suspended for next week.”

Conor O’Gorman in action against Shelbourne in the Leinster Senior Cup tie at Oriel Park. Photo: Gerry Scully

On a night that also saw three of the club’s academy players – Sean Bannon, Conor O’Gorman and Dualta Honney make their first-team debut, O’Donnell felt that Alfie Lewis’s display was another major positive.

“I thought Alfie was exceptional and that Shels couldn’t get near him at times. I thought a lot of our lads were really good. We gave up some sloppy goals from an individual point of view more so than from a team point of view but in general terms, the application was excellent.

“As strange as it may seem after a 4-0 loss, I’m very, very positive. I was looking for enthusiasm, application and work rate and a willingness to go and get on the front foot and we had some really good passages.”