Johannes Yli-Kokko is hoping to pull Dundalk into the title race with a win over SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division leaders – and reigning champions – Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park on Friday night.
Rovers took a massive step towards their fourth title on the spin with a 1-0 win over Derry City at Tallaght Stadium on Monday night.
That result moved the Hoops seven points clear of Derry and third-placed St Patrick’s Athletic while Dundalk are a further three behind Stephen Bradley’s men in fourth place.
The top four will have to juggle domestic commitments with European competition in July and Yli-Kokko said that a Dundalk win would make life interesting going into the summer.
“If we can win, it would make it a bit more condensed at the top and as a footballer, all you want is to be involved in the title race,” said the Finnish midfielder.
“Back home in Finland there is always a couple of teams really ahead of the rest and some teams fall behind but here in Ireland, it is so condensed and all of the games are quite close and everyone can win. It’s quite exciting.”
Dundalk head into the game on the back of a very encouraging second-half display against Pat’s on Monday night. After seeing Rayhaan Tulloch harshly sent off, the Lilywhites responded brilliantly with Daniel Kelly bagging a well-deserved equaliser for Stephen O’Donnell’s side.
“We just want to continue from where we left off in the last 45 minutes on Monday,” said Yli-Kokko. “We were really happy with the way the boys performed after going down to 10 men. They showed a real will and heart to get back in the game and we almost scored a winner.
“Shamrock Rovers are a good side and we’ll have to be at the top of our game but we’ve trained well and we’ll be looking to take them down.”
Team News: Cameron Elliott misses out with a calf injury while Rayhaan Tulloch is suspended but Keith Ward and Alfie Lewis are hoping to be involved after sitting out the 1-1 draw with St Patrick’s Athletic on Monday night.
Stephen O’Donnell Quotes
“Rovers will come here and be buoyed by their win over Derry on Monday. Points-wise, they didn’t have a great start to the season, but they’re playing quite well now and they’re one of the teams that can deal with three games in seven days and whatever individuals they play, they’re gonna be strong.
“They’ve been the best team in the country over the last few years and they know how to get their job done in different circumstances but it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to meeting head-on. It’s the biggest game of the season, we’ve 10 points from the last 12 available and we’re looking forward to it.”