Rovers v Dundalk: Bradley’s budget talk provides bit of pre-match needle
Dundalk in slightly greater need of a result in Friday night’s clash at Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley says Dundalk “are spending, it’s the biggest I have ever seen in this country so I imagine they’d expect to win everything that’s in their path.” File photograph: Inpho
When these two met for the first time last year, the game seemed to just about have it all: a jam packed stadium, a Puskas award nominated goal and the two best sides in the country producing a cracking encounter.
Twelve months on, the first is out of the question, the second is obviously a little unlikely and the third . . . well, Dundalk find themselves with work to do to re-establish their status on that front.
A third place finish last season and a stuttering start to the new one have left the visitors in slightly greater need of a result this time. “In this league, you can’t wait until game six or seven, you have to hit the ground running,” acknowledges Dundalk, er, supremo, Shane Keegan. “That’s what we intend to do.
“In the last two games against them, we have ground out fantastic results,” he says, “but if we are 100 per cent honest, we were second best for long periods both times so we won’t be getting carried away.”
Keegan is generous in his appraisal of the league champions, observing that they are a “fine fine side. The best around,” he continues, a moment before, it seems, thinking to add: “along with ourselves”.
It is left to Stephen Bradley then to provide a bit of pre-match needle with the Rovers manager marvelling on Thursday over the size of the Dundalk budget as he mulls over whether the Oriel Park outfit can re-establish themselves as the main threat to the title holders this season.
“I don’t know,” he says. “Dundalk have been fantastic over the last few years; Stephen (Kenny) built a fantastic team there and they were a good side, they are full of good players. But I think they have a budget that I’ve never seen in this country before.
“I am sure with what they are doing they expect to be there or thereabouts, I am sure the owners expect them to be right there winning but what they are spending, it’s the biggest I have ever seen in this country so I imagine they’d expect to win everything that’s in their path.”
The “biggest spenders ever,” title is actually fairly hotly contested and Dundalk, for all their current extravagance, may not yet have quite topped some of the numbers racked up by one or two clubs just before the building boom imploded.
Even Peak6 founder Matt Hulsizer has acknowledged that they are comfortably outspending their rivals at the moment, though, and makes no bones about the fact that that sort of outlay comes with owner expectation attached.
The rest of the league, meanwhile, might be just a little entertained by Bradley’s suggestion that Rovers: “still expect to win but we do it a different way”.
The club’s ability to bring in somebody of Chris McCann’s calibre in the close season is a reminder of the resources they have out in Tallaght too. The 33 year-old, who played nine seasons of Championship football and a portion of one in the Premier League while at Burnley, has impressed in his couple of competitive outings for Rovers so far and says he is enjoying the move back home.
“It was like a baptism of fire coming into the team playing Dundalk (in the President’s Cup), supposedly your main rivals, even if the result didn’t go our way,” he says. “Then obviously St Pat’s, a Dublin derby. A tough game as well, a bit of intensity in the game, but I feel like I’ve settled in okay, and been playing okay.
“There’s been a bit of change here, new lads coming in and I think it’s going to take a couple games for us to get to know each other’s rhythm but there have been spells in the last couple of games that suggest we’re clicking, that we’re doing the right things and playing the right way. I’m sure if we stick to that then the results will come thick and fast.”
They’ll have to do it this evening without Roberto Lopes who is in quarantine after a successful spot of international duty with Cape Verde. But Raivis Jurkovskis, Keegan suggests, is set to feature for the visitors despite having played three times, and provided an assist in a 3-3 draw in Istanbul, for Latvia over the past week or so.
Pat McEleney has “a chance” of playing some part after missing the defeat by Finn Harps with a hamstring injury but Sonni Nattestad (suspended) along with Daniel Kelly and Sean Murray are all ruled out.