After a good April for both himself and the team, Dundalk goalkeeper Nathan Shepperd is hoping to get the month of May off to a flying start with a win against UCD at the Belfield Bowl on Friday night.
The Lilywhites banked a return of four wins, a draw and a defeat from their six games in April, a haul which leaves them sitting in third place in the table ahead of the trip to the capital.
Shepperd played a major part in that run, conceding just four goals and making a number of impressive saves, and his form has been recognised by the Soccer Writers Association of Ireland, who have nominated him for the SSE Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month award.
“It’s decent!” he smiled when asked about the nomination on Friday afternoon. “As a team, we had a decent month in April and we started picking up more wins which is what we needed because the draws we had in the first round of fixtures slowed us down a little bit. We’re going in the right direction at the minute so hopefully, we can keep it going.
“We have a busy month coming up and we want to take the form from April into those games. We have UCD on Friday night but nothing is given. You have to turn up, put in the work and bring quality and intensity to every game. We have started picking up wins at home and the aim now is to start picking up wins away and striking a balance.”
Shepperd’s words were echoed by Lilywhites head coach Stephen O’Donnell who challenged his side to end their wait for a victory on the road against the bottom-of-the-table Students who have lost their last four games and are still searching for their first win of the campaign.
“Our home record has been very good but we’ve not won away from home and we’d like to put that right. It won’t be easy. UCD have been very competitive at Belfield and it’s always tough up there, no matter how they are doing.
“They feel comfortable at home and they have players that can hurt you. We need to be on our mettle and there should be no complacency but after a good performance last week and a good week of training, we’re all looking forward to it.”
Dundalk’s last visit to the Belfield Bowl ended in a rout with the now-departed contingent of Daniel Cleary (2), Sean Hoare, Michael Duffy and Georgie Kelly all on the scoresheet in a 5-0 win over the Students in August 2019.
Of the 14 players that were involved for Dundalk that evening, only three, Daniel Kelly, who started, and substitutes Patrick Hoban and Robbie Benson are still at the club.
After missing the last three games with a hamstring injury, Benson, who celebrates his 30th birthday on Saturday, is in line for a return on Friday night.
Mark Connolly and Dan Williams miss out through suspension and injury respectively but Steven Bradley is available after sitting out the win over Drogheda United with a one-match ban.
Tickets are available online at this link and will also be available at the ground ahead of the game.
Listen // Stephen O’Donnell Preview