Dundalk begin another busy week with a trip to Tolka Park on Friday night to take on Shelbourne in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.
The Lilywhites go into the game with Damien Duff’s side on the back of an unbeaten start to the season which has seen them win one and draw three of their opening four matches.
A return of six points has only been bettered by early pace setters Derry City but Patrick Hoban believes that Dundalk should have more to show for their efforts thus far.
“We’ve made a good start but looking back we should have beaten Derry City on the opening night. The draw against Bohemians was maybe a fair result and then we beat Finn Harps.
“Last week in Sligo was difficult. It was one of those nights where you don’t play much normal football and have to play territory football.
“We did well in the first half but the second half was a bit more disappointing. We came out of in the end with a draw but draws don’t win you anything. To compete in the league we need to be winning
“Everyone will take points off each other this year, that is the way the league is going to be, it’s very competitive. We just want to get into a rhythm and become more consistent.”
With three games in the space of seven days on the horizon, this would be an ideal time for Dundalk to start clocking up victories.
The game with Shels is followed by the visit of Shamrock Rovers on Monday night before the period concludes with the first SSE Airtricity League Louth Derby of the season at Head In The Game Park on March 18th.
“It’s a busy week for us again but it’s a week to look forward to,” said Hoban. “It’s a tough weekend with Shelbourne on Friday and then Rovers on Monday but we are just focused on Shels. We know it will be difficult in Tolka but hopefully, we can get the win.”
Shelbourne have had a mixed start to their return to the top-flight. A 3-0 defeat at home to St Patrick’s Athletic on the opening night of the season was followed by a win away to Drogheda United and a scoreless draw with UCD in Belfield before Patrick McEleney secured Derry City a late win at Tolka Park last Friday night.
“I’m expecting a very tough game,” said Lilywhites head coach Stephen O’Donnell. “Shels have taken four points from their opening four matches and were unlucky not to get anything from their two home games.
“I was at their game last week with Derry and you can see that no team will get anything easy against them. They don’t give up a lot of chances and it’s going to be a very competitive game.
“From our point of view, we’ve built up a bit of momentum so far and the players’ attitude and application have been brilliant and we’ll be looking to keep that going.”
Dundalk’s last league outing at Tolka Park came at the beginning of the Covid-shortened 2020 season when Andy Boyle and Patrick Hoban scored against the Reds in a 2-1 win.
Prior to that, you had to go back to August 2013 for the last league encounter between the clubs in Drumcondra, a night when Dundalk – captained by O’Donnell – won 2-1 with Boyle and Brian Gartland on target.
“I’m looking forward to the game,” said O’Donnell. “It’s good to see a big club like Shelbourne back in the Premier Division and I’m hoping we bring another big away support with us as we did in Sligo last week.”
Dundalk hope to have Brian Gartland and David McMillan available after both players missed the 0-0 draw in Sligo through illness while Darragh Leahy is also closing in on a return.