Dundalk will be hoping to bounce back from their midweek FAI Cup defeat with a home win over in form Saint Patrick's Athletic in Oriel Park on Friday night. (Kick-off, 7.45pm)
Following their midweek exit to Bohemians in their FAI Cup Quarter Final replay last Tuesday, the Lilywhites have only pride to play for in their remaining six league games. By contrast, Pete Mahon's Saints are fighting for silverware on three fronts as they lie only four points behind league leaders Derry City, and have both a Leinster Senior Cup Final against Bohemians and an FAI Cup Semi-Final in October to look forward to.
History suggests that Dundalk will have a tough time against the Saints having failed to record a home win over the Inchicore side in 13 years, the last victory coming in a 2-0 triumph in November 1998. But the Lilywhites' manager Ian Foster has a lot more than history to worry about, as he could be without up to five first team players on Friday night.
“We picked up a couple of injuries. [Mark] Griffin has got a groin injury which will probably rule him out for the weekend, [Dean] Bennett will be suspended. Even on Tuesday, we could only get six subs. Out of those six subs, Stephen McDonnell is not ready and we had a 16-year-old boy [Conor McDonald] on the bench, and that's where we're at, at the moment.”
With an injury ravaged squad though, the Dundalk boss still expects his squad to finish the remainder of the season in as strong a fashion as possible. “We've got six games to go and I've got a proud bunch of players,” Foster said. “I've got a committed bunch of players. Friday night is going to be tough for us. It certainly is, because obviously we played 120 minutes on Tuesday – 45 minutes with ten men."
Preparations for the away side have been less than ideal as well as Pete Mahon revealed that the Saints have their own injury problems and has some concern for those with knocks playing on Dundalk's plastic pitch. “We have a number of players injured which has impacted our training sessions this week. We are hoping two or three will have recovered, but we need to consider the impact the artificial pitch will have on them before making any decisions.”
The Saints will hope that the good fortune of striker Danny North continues as he has notched three goals in his last four games and also became a father for the first time during the week. Saints' boss Mahon was full of praise for the attitude of the Grimsby born striker, who remains on course to break the 20 goal mark in all competitions.
“It has been a great week for Danny (North) who became the proud father of a baby girl. As with any expecting parent he had a lot on his mind recently, but he scored two brilliant goals (against Shamrock Rovers and Cork City) which is a true sign of his quality and importance to this team.”