Rovers hope Dundalk have eyes off the ball

Pat Fenlon still in the early days of putting his own mark on the team he has taken on

Having won doubles as both a manager and a player, Pat Fenlon knows more than most what Dundalk must contend with as they try to get their league and cup campaigns successfully over the finish line.

Others might be hoping that the league leaders will be otherwise engaged as they come to Dublin for their cup quarter-final in Tallaght this evening, But the Shamrock Rovers boss knows better.

“Nah,” he says, “you barely even know what competition you’re playing in when you’re going like that; you just keep going, wanting to get out there and win.”

His own side’s already slender hopes of catching tonight’s visitors in the league “more or less died,” Fenlon said last week in Turner’s Cross. But everything is up for grabs as both sides try to take another step towards the final of a competition neither has won in a while.

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Likes what he sees

Fenlon is still in the early days of putting his own mark on the team he has taken on, but is pleased by some of what he’s seen so far. The aims remain the same as the day he arrived – “to try to win the cup and finish as high up the league as possible”. At this stage, it’s not hard to guess which route the fans would prefer to take back to Europe.

The Rovers have Ryan Brennan back, but Sean O'Connor is out for the visit of Stephen Kenny's side, which is missing only long-term absentees Stephen O'Donnell and Simon Kelly.

The games comes almost two years to the day after the Rovers board showed Kenny the door, and the 42 year-old could be forgiven for taking personal satisfaction in the event that his team takes another step towards that possible double of their own out in Tallaght this evening.

Recent history is certainly on their side: the Oriel Park outfit have won four and drawn on of their two clubs’ last five encounters.

Hope for glory

At Inchicore there’ll be plenty of connections as well, as St Patrick’s Athletic host Bohemians with the home side, like Rovers, looking for consolation in the cup after their title defence came up short.

Their fading hopes on that front were dealt another blow on Monday when Dundalk beat a weakened Derry City side 5-0 , But Liam Buckley is magnanimous about it all, admitting that Peter Hutton is entitled to focus in his own goals. "If we don't win the league," he admits, "I won't be putting it down to Derry playing a weakened team."

The hosts have everyone – bar Aaron Greene, who is cup-tied – available for this evening's match, while Owen Heary will most likely bringing a lot of first teamers, including Dinny Corcoran and Dave Mulcahy, back into his starting line-up.

In the night's other game, Drogheda united are without the suspended Gavin Brennan, but they do have Alan McNally despite the ankle injury he sustained last week. City are without long-term absentee Danny Ventre.

However, having rested anyone with minor problems, including striker Rory Patterson, Hutton is hopeful that everyone else will be fit to start.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Industry and Employment Correspondent at The Irish Times