Kenna in race to prove fitness


FAI CUP SEMI-FINAL:ST PATRICK’S Athletic captain Conor Kenna faces a race to prove his fitness ahead of Sunday’s Ford-sponsored FAI Cup semi-final against Dundalk. Kenna has been told by manager Liam Buckley that he must tonight demonstrate his readiness for the game.

The central defender was one of many regulars to miss Monday’s 5-0 win over UCD and given the scale of the victory achieved in their absence, most will be a little concerned about reclaiming their place for the trip to Oriel Park.

Kenna would normally be one of the safest bets to be reinstalled but the knee injury that ruled him out remains a concern and Buckley said yesterday he could well rule the player out this evening. “We think Conor will train on Thursday,” he said, “but if not we won’t take a chance on him.”

The Dubliners will have Pat Flynn, James Chambers and Greg Bolger available again after suspension while Christy Fagan is hoping to shake off an ankle problem and John Russell is back in training. Ryan Coombes is unavailable, though, due to his under-19 international call-up.

Darius Kierans, meanwhile, has a selection headache of a rather different kind with Mark Griffin, his talented young striker whose fine goal at Dalymount Park earned Dundalk their place in this stage of the competition, out through suspension while Paul Whelan and Stephen Maher are both cup-tied.

Given the squad’s lack of depth, the three are bound to be missed but Kierans remains positive insisting “it means that three of the other lads will get the chance to play in a cup semi-final”.

Dundalk, their manager knows, need to raise their game dramatically if they are to beat a St Patrick’s side that he particularly admires but, he insists, the task is not beyond them.

“We have produced some very good performances this season,” he said. “Okay, last Friday night (when they lost 7-0 to Shamrock Rovers) wasn’t one of them, that’s for sure; and it’s come at a very bad time for us but young players can be resilient and they can bounce back from these things pretty quickly.

“Pats are a great team,” he continued. “I’ve seen an awful lot of them this year.

“I love going to watch them; they have some good players and they play in the right manner: they keep possession well and have a lot of threats within the team but we’ve beaten them already. We beat them in Richmond Park and we had 10 men for 45 minutes of the game.

“Okay, we got the rub of the green on the day but if we get the rub of the green on Sunday . . . we’re massive underdogs and we’ve nothing to lose. Just look at Europe in the Ryder Cup!”

Keirans doesn’t need reminding that the last time Dundalk won the cup they were relegated and much as he would like to emulate the success of a decade ago, he is clear that his priority is to avoid the drop.

“Staying in the division is the most important aspect of it all and I’m confident we will do that, albeit by way of a play-off. We know going into this game that whatever happens we have two finals to come but I have confidence in myself, the players and my staff that we are good enough to stay up, no question.

“When they won the cup last time and went down three went down. I think they won 10 of their last 13 so they were unlucky to be relegated. I’m sure it meant a lot to them to win the cup but then I’d settle for staying up all day long and I bet they’d have been the same.”

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