Michael Duffy marked his 200th appearance for the club with a stunning free-kick in Tuesday night’s Extra.ie FAI Cup replay win over Finn Harps at Oriel Park. We sat down with him the morning after the night before to discuss the victory over Ollie Horgan’s men and look ahead to another busy period which will see Sligo Rovers and Bohemians come to Oriel Park in the space of just four days.
DFCM: Michael, that was a brilliant result against Finn Harps, especially when you consider the issues we had with players’ health and injuries.
MD: Yeah, it was a massive result for us and it was made even better by everything that’s gone on. It’s been a tough few days and weeks and it makes the result even better because I think people wrote us off because of the injuries and everything else so it was brilliant to win it.
DFCM: On Monday, everyone might have been thinking ’It’s going to be another week of madness at the club’?
MD: Yeah, that’s what everyone was thinking and I’m sure people were doubting us and thinking that’s us out of the cup but we stuck at it, we stayed together, and we dug in. The young boys coming in were brilliant and we deserved to win.
DFCM: We responded brilliantly to going a goal down early on. I’m sure plenty of people would have been thinking Dundalk weren’t coming back from that.
MD: It was a good goal from Harps to be fair, but we responded well, won all our headers and second balls. We knew that’s what we needed to do because 10 minutes of madness cost us up in Ballybofey but we were brilliant and fought the whole game.
DFCM: Considering the number of players that are missing, and the limited options available on the bench, it was really encouraging to see the fitness levels in extra time. We finished the game very strong.
MD: Yeah, we were brilliant in extra time. We got the goal early from the penalty and that settled us down a bit. We were in full control after that really and I think their legs gave up. They were also playing their third game in eight days so it was tough on them as well but that was when our fitness kicked in.
DFCM: Tell us about the free-kick – and the fact you were able to run over and celebrate with The Shed as well. Two months ago, there would have been nobody there!
MD: I was delighted with it. I haven’t scored one in a long time! I’ve been getting stick for it so I was delighted to see it go in. It was class to have the fans back. It’s an unbelievable feeling, we’ve really missed the fans and they were fantastic on Tuesday night from start to finish. They helped us through extra time and it was brilliant to celebrate with them again.
DFCM: Some clubs might not miss the fans as much as others, but seeing the flare lit at the start and hearing the noise, you could see and hear the difference it makes to us.
MD: It’s definitely the way it should be, and we definitely need our fans. It definitely shows in the games where we haven’t had them and it’s been tough. At the European games in Tallaght, we responded well, and then last night, when Oriel is packed like that, it’s like having a 12th man. Celebrating the goal was a great feeling.
DFCM: Despite the win, there isn’t a lot of time to recover and unfortunately we aren’t in a position to take our eyes off the league.
MD: Obviously it’s not ideal for us. We’re missing bodies at the minute but that’s just how it is and we’ll just have to get our heads down and go again. We can make this a great week and get ourselves out of the relegation battle because we put ourselves in it and it’s on us to get out of it.
DFCM: Going back to the FAI Cup, the semi-final is a month away so, hopefully, we’ll have a couple of the injured players back by then.
MD: Yeah, that’s good and it suits us really. We just need to focus on getting a few wins now in the league. We really don’t want to be down at the bottom and come the semi-final we could have players back and have a strong squad and bench. Then come the final we could have everyone back – if we get there. That’s where we want to be, to end the season with a day out in the Aviva.
DFCM: Winning the FAI Cup would go a long way to erasing the memories of a difficult season…
Definitely, and that’s what we keep saying. We need to focus on the league, get out of trouble and then just get into the cup final. If we do that, people will look back and won’t focus on the negatives, they can say we won the cup and pulled ourselves out of the relegation battle.