Stephen O’Donnell has called on his players to put last week’s Louth Derby disappointment behind them and kickstart another long, unbeaten run when they take on St Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park on Friday night.
The 1-0 defeat at Head In The Game Park was Dundalk’s first loss since mid-April when a Danny Mandroiu goal secured Shamrock Rovers a 1-0 win at Tallaght Stadium.
O’Donnell’s men responded to that setback by winning eight and drawing two of their next 10 games and the Lilywhites head coach believes the frustration that everyone connected to Dundalk felt after the derby was due to the rapid progress his side had made this season.
“Last week was disappointing in that we were coming off the back of a 10-game unbeaten stretch,” he told dundalkfc.com on Thursday afternoon.
“When a run like that ends, everyone is naturally disappointed because you’ve got into the habit of winning games but when you step back and evaluate it all we are delighted with where we are at.
“Defeats happen in football and we’ve only lost three in 22,” he added. “The aim now is to see if we can go on a similar run to the one we went on after the Rovers game. If we can, we will have a right chance of doing something.
“Last weekend wasn’t the best after the Drogheda game but we went over some things, parked it and we’ve had a good week of training. Everybody has applied themselves really well and we’re looking forward to getting back on the horse tomorrow.”
Dundalk have taken four points from their two games against Pat’s this season. In April, the sides played out a scoreless draw while a Daniel Kelly goal was the difference in the second series of fixtures at Oriel Park towards the end of May.
Victory in Inchicore would move Dundalk nine points clear of the fourth-placed Saints, with a game in hand, and also cut Shamrock Rovers’ lead at the top of the table to seven points with 13 games remaining.
“It’s two teams up near the top echelons of the league and anytime that happens it’s going to be a tough game,” said O’Donnell. “Our first two games against them were tight and I’d expect no different on Friday night.
“Our job is to prepare for the game and identify certain areas that we can exploit against a good attacking team with some dangerous players.”
Pat’s have not played since they beat Drogheda United 3-0 at Richmond Park on July 1st but with a UEFA Europa Conference second qualifying round tie against Sfintul Gheorghe or Mura on the horizon, O’Donnell is expecting Tim Clancy’s men to have a spring in their step.
“Having no game can work both ways,” he said. “You can be really refreshed or you can go into the game out of rhythm so we’ll see.
“They’re getting ready for Europe and they’ll be really enthusiastic. I always found teams that were heading into Europe had a bit of a bounce about them so it’ll be no different tomorrow.”
O’Donnell also lavished praise on defender Mark Connolly who became the third Dundalk player, after Steven Bradley and Daniel Kelly, to win the Soccer Writers of Ireland/SSE Airtricity Player of the Month award this season.
“Mark has been brilliant for us,” he said. “It’s not often that defenders get recognised and win Player of the Month so it’s great.
“That’s two of our attacking players and a defender now who have won the award which is a good spread. It sums up our team in that everyone works hard for each other across each different unit.”
Discussions about the on-loan defender’s future are still ongoing between Dundalk, Dundee United and the player but O’Donnell reiterated that he would like to keep the Monaghan native at Oriel Park.
“We’re over the moon with what we have got from Mark, on and off the pitch. We would like him to stay but as I keep saying, everyone has to be on the same page. He is a Dundee United player and, ultimately, it will be in the hands of Dundee United.”
Tickets are on general sale at this link. Please be advised that tickets are not available from Oriel Park for this fixture.