Stephen Kenny is crying out for some respite as his Dundalk troops continue their busy schedule with yet another rearranged league fixture against Finn Harps at Oriel Park on Monday night.
The Dundalk manager was left indignant after seeing his request of having the season extended in order to accommodate their extra matches rejected by the FAI. The Lilywhites now instead face an arduous fixture congestion which sees them play at least 14 matches in all competitions between now and the end of October.
The silver lining for the champions is that, perhaps crucially, seven of their ten remaining league outings are at home beginning with Finn Harps and Kenny has issued a rallying call, urging the natives to get behind his team over the next two months.
Speaking to dundalkfc.com he said, “I think this is an unprecedented season. People should live for this season and the people of Dundalk should really respect this group of players. The next few weeks we have seven home games and it is a festival of football. In my eyes, it is the biggest festival of football that Dundalk has ever seen between the Europa League games and those seven league games as well as the FAI Cup.
“We should really rejoice this time and really do our best to get behind them because they are going to be tired in all the games and we need that energy that the crowd can give. We need that positive energy to aid us over the next few weeks in our stretch of home games.”
Ronan Finn, Brian Gartland, Sean Gannon, David McMillan, John Mountney and Stephen O’Donnell should return to the squad – all of whom weren’t even named on the substitutes’ bench for Friday’s FAI Cup quarter-final victory over UCD in Belfield.
In stark contrast to their opponent’s hectic programme, this will be Finn Harps’ first match since they were defeated 2-0 by Shamrock Rovers in Ballybofey at the end of August.
Harps are again without the injured Damien McNulty and Sean Houston for their trip to Oriel Park while Ethan Boyle serves a one-match suspension. Barry Molloy is also unavailable for the visitors so manager Ollie Horgan may be forced to draft several U19 players into the squad.
“I don't think there is any good time to play Dundalk and tomorrow night certainly isn't ideal with a number of players unavailable to us. They have scored ten goals against us in previous two meetings so the size of our task doesn't get much more difficult than that”, Horgan said.
This fixture had been originally pencilled in for last month but was put on hold due to Dundalk’s European commitments while last week’s match away at Sligo Rovers was abandoned after 22 minutes due to a waterlogged pitch. However, it’s their home game against Cork City, which has now been called off twice, that’s caused the greatest inconvenience.
Though the financial burden from that particular postponement is just one side of Finn Harps’ troubles at the minute with Horgan’s team, who are on the back of five consecutive league defeats and without a goal in two months, precariously looking over their shoulders as they desperately aim to secure their Premier Division status for another season.
Monday night’s match will be the 77th competitive meeting between the two clubs – the first was a 3-3 draw in the now defunct League of Ireland Shield back in 1969.
Dundalk have only beaten Finn Harps twice in their last six attempts and both of those wins came this season – a 3-0 home win in March followed by a 7-0 annihilation at Finn Park in May.
Darren Meenan is the only player on either team to have represented both clubs – he made 13 league appearances, scoring once, for Finn Harps in 2006.
Dundalk 2/9; Draw 9/2; Finn Harps 12/1
Dundalk 2-0 Finn Harps
Doubtful: Darren Meenan (groin).
Injured: Damien McNulty (knee), Sean Houston.
Doubtful: Josh Mailey.
Suspended: Ethan Boyle.