Dundalk are just three wins away from claiming what would be a fifth SSE Airtricity League title in six years – three points against Cork City on Friday would bring the Lilywhites a step closer (kick-off 7.45pm).
A win against the Leesiders at Oriel Park, coupled with a win in Waterford on September 20th would grant Vinny Perth’s side the opportunity to mathematically clinch the title against Shamrock Rovers – who held a 13-point lead back in April – when the sides face each other at Oriel on September 23rd.
Now unbeaten in 20 league matches, Dundalk have kept clean sheets in each of their last five outings and Sean Hoare has been paramount in a defence that has conceded just 13 goals all season.
“No matter how Cork City are going, they will always up it against us. The rivalry is still there and it’s going to be a very tough game for us. They are a good side and have a new manager,” said Hoare.
“They haven’t had the best of seasons, but that doesn’t matter when both of us come up against each other. They will be coming to Oriel Park to put in a performance. They will be trying to get one over on us.
“We will have to be ready but we know what to expect. It’ll be a difficult game for us, but we are playing well and looking forward to it.”
For the visit of Cork on Friday night, Dundalk will be without the injured John Mountney and Sean Murray, while both Jamie McGrath and Daniel Kelly will undergo late fitness tests ahead of kick-off.
Cork have endured a difficult start to life under their new head coach Neale Fenn, who has seen his side suffer back-to-back home defeats against Sligo Rovers and Waterford over the past seven days.
A third consecutive league defeat in Dundalk on Friday, in addition to a Finn Harps win over St Patrick’s Athletic on the same night would leave eighth-place Cork – who are hoping to avoid having to play a relegation play-off – anxiously looking over their shoulders with just six matches remaining.
“Nobody likes losing. When you’ve dominated a game for large spells and played well for large spells, disappointment does set in. We’ve had to pick ourselves back up,” said Fenn on the back of that Sligo defeat.
“It was a disappointing night results-wise, but when you look at the positives – we played some good stuff, created lots of chances. We just need to do the same against Dundalk on Friday and work hard to dig out a result.
“We need a reaction. We need to learn lessons from Monday, which I’m sure we have. It’s going to be tough.
“We’re under no illusions whatsoever. Going up to Dundalk, it’s a daunting prospect, but it’s one we’re looking forward to.
“It’s a hugely difficult game for us. We’re going to travel up there and we know a hard-working performance will be required. The boys know that and we’re looking forward to it.”
Cork will make the long trip to Dundalk without the injured duo of Cian Murphy and Cian Bargary.
Referee: Ben Connolly.
Dundalk have beaten Cork City in each of their last six meetings in all competitions. Cork’s last league win at Oriel Park was a 3-0 win – in which Sean Maguire bagged a hat-trick – in June 2017.
It’s now over a full year since Dundalk lost a league match at Oriel. The last team to beat them on home soil was Shamrock Rovers, who recorded a 2-1 win at the Co. Louth venue in August 2018.
Dundalk have recorded 71 points after 29 matches. At the same stage last year when the Lilywhites ultimately achieved a record points haul in a League of Ireland season; they had amassed 70 points.
Dundalk 1/4; Draw 4/1; Cork City 12/1
Dundalk 3 – 0 Cork City
Injured: John Mountney, Sean Murray.
Doubtful: Jamie McGrath, Daniel Kelly.
Injured: Cian Murphy, Cian Bargary.
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