The SSE Airtricity League season hits the midway point on Friday night when Dundalk play host to St Patrick’s Athletic at Oriel Park.
Confidence is understandably high in the Lilywhites camp after an impressive run of five wins and a draw for their last six outings.
That sequence has propelled Dundalk into third place, three points ahead of Friday night’s opponents, and head coach Stephen O’Donnell said he was thrilled by his new-look side’s trajectory to date.
“I’m delighted with our progress,” he told dundalkfc.com. “In pre-season, we were beaten 5-1 at home to Bohemians and we lost away to Waterford. From the outside, I’m sure people were thinking there’s lots of work to be done if Dundalk want to be competitive.
“Since then, we’ve lost two games in 17 and I’m delighted with the players. They’re progressing individually and as a collective unit. I couldn’t have asked for any more from them in terms of their attitude and the quality they’ve shown and we’ve also added belief.
“They know that if they go out and work to a certain level, they will give themselves the best chance to win games. If you win games, then, naturally, that gives you belief.
“When we were drawing games, there may have been some question marks in people’s minds but the players can see now that we are capable of winning games against everyone in this division.”
A win over Pat’s would make it six on the spin at Oriel Park. Only Derry City and Shamrock Rovers have taken something from the old ground this season and after quickfire away trips to Derry City and Finn Harps last weekend, O’Donnell said his players were looking forward to some home comforts.
“The lads really love playing at home on Friday nights,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of good checks here, going one down to Bohemians and coming back to win, for example, and with the crowd behind them, they really enjoy playing at Oriel.
“It’s obviously been a good period for us since our last home game against Bohemians because we’ve picked up wins against Derry City and Finn Harps so, home and away, we’re on a good run and we’re looking forward to Friday night,” he added.
“We’ve had a couple of days to freshen up, the players have trained well and everyone is in good spirits. Everything is positive but we also know that if we take our eye off the ball and start getting ahead of ourselves, we will get pegged right back to earth so we have to treat every game the way we’ve been treating them recently.”
Pat’s make the trip up the M1 knowing that a win would move them level on points with the hosts and Tim Clancy’s side recovered from the setback of losing a Dublin Derby against Shelbourne last Friday night by winning another one against Bohemians on Monday.
“Pat’s will be buoyed by their win over Bohs so it will be a tight game,” said O’Donnell. “They have dangerous offensive players and they have a good spine to their team and when we played them in Inchicore earlier in the season, they arguably shaded the game. They have good quality dotted around the pitch but so do we and we’ll be ready.”
O’Donnell also gave an injury update on John Mountney and Brian Gartland who have both been absent from the squad in recent weeks.
“John has a little bit of a cyst on the back of his leg,” he said. “It’s nothing major but it’s frustrating for him after working so hard to return to training and play an in-house game. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a tiny setback and we are looking forward to having him back after the break.
“With Brian, he has a niggle on the sole of his foot,” he added. “Again, he should be in contention really soon and we’re looking forward to having him back after the break also.”