Series one of the 2022 SSE Airtricity League season comes to a close on Friday night when Dundalk travel to Richmond Park to face St Patrick’s Athletic in a fixture that will be broadcast live on RTE2.
The Lilywhites will be looking to build on last week’s comfortable 2-0 win over UCD at Oriel Park, a result which leaves them just two points behind Tim Clancy’s side going into the clash on the Camac.
Friday’s game will see Dundalk head coach Stephen O’Donnell, along with assistant manager Padge Cregg, and players Robbie Benson, Sam Bone and the injured John Mountney, all return to Inchicore for the first time since their departure at the end of last season.
And despite leading Pat’s to a second place finish in 2021 – and only their fourth FAI Cup win at the Aviva Stadium last November – O’Donnell is expecting a frosty reception from the Richmond Park faithful.
“There’s been a lot of talk since I came to Dundalk so I’d imagine there’ll be a good atmosphere and it’ll be hostile,” he told dundalkfc.com on Thursday. “I can’t control any of that, I’m more looking at the team, the game and the football side of it.
“There’s been a lot of stuff said, not from my side, so I’m sure it will lead to a good atmosphere which is good for the league as it generates a bit of interest.
“I get a bit of stick at most grounds so I’m well used to it. It’s part and parcel of football and I think it’s better for that. It would be worse if there was no emotion and it was all mundane.
“I had a great relationship with a lot of the staff and a lot of the players at Pat’s and the fans were very good to me. Ultimately, I’d like them to think of where the club was when we came in and where it was when we finished, as runners-up and winning the cup on one of the most memorable days I’ve had in my career.”
Dundalk go into the game sitting fifth in a congested league table, just three points off second placed Shamrock Rovers and a further six behind pace setters Derry City.
“It’s very tight,” said O’Donnell. “Derry have had a very good start but after that there are a lot of teams condensed in the table, similar to the way it was last year for a long period of the season.
“In that sense, it’s a big game at Richmond Park but we don’t put pressure on our lads to get three points and win games. It’s more their performance and workmate where we put the pressure on them. If they live up to that, then you can’t ask any more from them and they will be competitive in most games they play.”
John Martin is back in the squad after missing the victory over UCD with a knock while O’Donnell said that John Mountney was also closing in on a return from the knee injury he sustained playing for Pat’s in a 1-0 win over Dundalk at Oriel Park last August.
“John is a great person to have around the place but people can tend to forget what he can bring to us on the field,” he said. “It’ll be like a new signing because it will be an injection of a new face into the squad and it’ll be brilliant to have him in the squad in the next few weeks.
“Elsewhere, Nathan Shepperd, Joe Adams and Dan Williams only came back the day before the UCD match so they have had a good week of training under their belts and John Martin trained today so we’re looking forward to having him involved against Pat’s.”
Away tickets for Friday night’s SSE Airtricity League game with St Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park can only be purchased online at this link. Tickets are not available from Oriel Park and will not be on sale at Richmond Park ahead of the game.