Dundalk look to take more points off reigning champions Shamrock Rovers when they clash in the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division at Tallaght Stadium on Thursday night.

The Lilywhites return to the scene of their draw on the opening day of the season in February, where Jamie Gullan’s thunderous free-kick gave them a first-half lead which was cancelled out after the break by Aaron Greene’s close-range finish.

Dundalk then bagged a precious last-gasp win over Rovers at Oriel Park in mid-May when John Mountney struck in the 91st minute on what was a turning point in their battle at the bottom with near neighbours Drogheda United, as they closed to within three points of them.

Jon Daly’s men are preparing for back-to-back battles with the Boynesiders, in the league and FAI Cup on the 12th and 19th of July respectively, and they will hope to at least maintain their three-point advantage over their rivals when the final whistle blows on Thursday ahead of next week’s huge Louth Derby.

Dundalk travel to Rovers having seen their proud record at Oriel Park come to an end last Friday, going down 2-0 to Waterford, as their run of eight consecutive home clean sheets went up in smoke. In the process, they fell further behind eighth-placed Bohemians, who have two games in hand, with the gap to safety now six points.

On the same night, Rovers suffered a damaging 2-0 defeat at Sligo Rovers, a result which did Dundalk no favours either, as the Hoops’ hopes of achieving a fifth league title in a row are left hanging by a thread, now in fourth place 15 points behind leaders Shelbourne, albeit with a game in hand on The Reds.

Dundalk know they will need to improve on their away performances if they are to take anything from Tallaght this time around, having lost eight of their ten games on the road since that opening-night point. Last time out, in the capital a month ago, they went down 1-0 to Shels.

Rovers have lost three of their last four games, their sole win in that run coming in Drogheda at the end of May, while their recent home form has been mixed, winning one, drawing one and losing two of their last four there.

Dundalk, though, will have to overcome recent history if they are to cause an upset as they are without a league win away to Rovers in now five years, going back to late June 2019 when Seán Gannon’s 73rd-minute goal gave them a 1-0 victory.

Team News
New signings Scott McGill, Bobby Faulkner, Hayden Cann, Jad Hakiki and Norman Garbett are hoping to be involved but Andy Boyle and Jamie Gullan are doubtful while Dara Keane is injured. On-loan Zak Johnson plays his final game for the club before returning to Sunderland.

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Quotes – Jon Daly
“We were disappointed with the result against Waterford. The goals we conceded were sloppy and poor on our part. I’m sure Waterford will look at it from their point of view as a really good transition from the corner, and then the free-kick they won, they managed to stick it away. From my point of view, they were two avoidable goals.

“Ultimately, Waterford put the ball in our net twice, which is what the game is about. We had some good opportunities. I don’t think it’s necessarily down to our strikers to be the ones to go and score. Other players are getting opportunities as well that need to have that concentration.

“There are positives there. If you’re not creating opportunities and you’re not looking like a threat going forward then you would worry a little bit more. I was very disappointed not to come away with anything out of the game, but sometimes you don’t get what you deserve in football.

“I don’t think playing Rovers at any time is a good time, especially away. They’re a good side. They’ll be disappointed with the result in Sligo, I was disappointed with it as well because I would have liked them to get three points to keep Sligo a little bit closer to us.

“But I do think it just highlights to us how important it was to beat Sligo here before the break. Again, it tells me that the league is really, really competitive, and if you’re not at it for whatever reason, you can come out the wrong side of a result.

“We must go to Tallaght fully focussed, we’re on our game, and if they’re not on their game, we make sure that we punish them. It will be a tough game, I’m well aware of how good they are, they’ve got a lot of players back now, so they’re nearly back to full strength.

“There will be a lot of people writing them off, but there’s still plenty of football left to play, and I’m sure there will be loads of twists and turns before the end of the season.”

Quotes – Zak Johnson
“I just want to say a massive thank you to the fans. They have supported me my whole time here. Dundalk is a place I’ll never forget. I think it’s a huge learning curve for me going forward. Dundalk have a massive part to play, however high I get and achieve.

“I’m gutted for the lads that I couldn’t end on a high at Oriel Park last week but we’ve got Shamrock Rovers to look forward to on Thursday, so hopefully we can put it right there in my last game.

“Our last game against Rovers, where we beat them 1-0 at Oriel through John Mountney in the last minute, I think that’s the standout moment. There was a lot of pressure on us in that game and up until the 90th minute I think there were eight points between us and Drogheda.

“At the end of that game, we closed the gap to three, which was huge for us. I feel like that’s probably the most standout moment, but every moment has been unbelievable, every clean sheet I’ve got has always felt special. The feeling has never gotten dull, I’ve always loved it. I’m going to miss Dundalk.”

Match Officials
Referee: Marc Lynch
Assistants: Darragh Keegan and Eoin Harte
Fourth Official: Oliver Moran