Dundalk look to continue their strong home form when they welcome league leaders Shelbourne to Oriel Park on Friday night (7.45pm), the start of a huge seven days for the club as they look to lift themselves off the bottom of the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division table.

After three consecutive home scoreless draws, Noel King finally lit the fuse on the Lilywhites’ 2024 season last week, beating in-form Bohemians 2-0 thanks to belting first-half goals from Scott High and Robbie Benson.

In what was King’s first match in charge, a magnificent display produced Dundalk’s first league win of the year at the 12th attempt and their first home goals in the top flight in six months. George Shelvey’s second-half penalty save was also a key moment.

The team have now gone 400 minutes without conceding a goal at Oriel Park, going back to Max Mata’s 62nd-minute fifth for Sligo Rovers at the beginning of March, and they now aim to extend their unbeaten run in all games to three having drawn at The Showgrounds a fortnight ago.

King’s side remain three points adrift of Drogheda United at the foot of the standings ahead of this coming Monday’s Louth Derby at Weavers Park (1pm), and five points behind eighth-placed Waterford where they travel to next Friday.

Shelbourne, on the other hand, have worries of a totally different type as they hope to hold onto top spot having ended their five-match winless streak with a 1-0 victory over Saint Patrick’s Athletic at Tolka Park last week, Dundalk old boy John Martin scoring the only goal. Prior to their mini blip, they had won six-in-a-row.

On their last two road trips, The Reds drew 2-2 in Drogheda thanks to Seán Boyd’s injury-time equaliser and then lost 1-0 in Galway two weeks ago, their first away defeat since September.

Damien Duff’s men currently sit on 25 points, two ahead of reigning champions Shamrock Rovers who face Bohemians at Dalymount Park on Friday night, and to maintain their place at the summit they will need a change of fortune in Dundalk.

Shels have not won a league game at Oriel Park since September 2012, with their only successes on the Carrick Road since then both coming in the Leinster Senior Cup in 2017 and 2023. Last season, Dundalk took four points from the two league meetings here, and it would have been six but for Harry Wood’s 83rd-minute leveller in early August.

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The teams have already met this season, in Dublin in late March. After a scoreless opening period, Liam Burt and an own-goal from Hayden Muller gave Shels a 2-0 lead before Benson headed in what proved to be a 91st-minute consolation.

Team News
Dara Keane is doubtful after going off in the win over Bohemians last week while Robbie Mahon, Cameron Elliott and Mayowa Animasahun are also expected to miss out.

Quotes – Noel King
“It was a very good performance from the whole group against Bohemians, even the players who came on, and it’d be great if we can repeat the same thing against Shelbourne.

“At the same time, we know that last week is done. You have to go forward and we have to make sure that we turn in a good performance again. It’s a tough match against Shels, who are top of the table, and on paper they’re supposed to beat us but hopefully we can defy the odds again.

“The Oriel Park crowd certainly got involved last week. They were pensive at the start and I knew that was going to happen but the boys played some fantastic football, really attack minded, and it was easy to get behind them, which is what we’ll need in every game.

“Damien Duff has done great things for the League of Ireland. He gets the publicity, he makes his comments, he highlights the game and the more the game is highlighted in a positive way, the better. So I think he’s been good for us all. Shels are trying to catch the so-called superpowers and he’s making progress so you have to give him full credit for that.”

Match Officials
Referee: Eoghan O’Shea
Assistants: Wayne McDonnell and Brian Fenlon
Fourth Official: Mark Houlihan