Dundalk caretaker manager Darius Kierans wants a “positive reaction” from his players when they take on Derry City at The Brandywell in the clubs’ 50th league meeting on Tuesday night (kick-off 7.45pm), after an “unacceptable” performance against Shamrock Rovers last Friday.
Dundalk fell to their heaviest defeat in any competition in 43 years and their biggest league loss since 1955 when they were hammered 7-0 by the Hoops at Tallaght Stadium, as a difficult league campaign hit a new low.
That defeat coupled with Bray Wanderers’ draw at Shelbourne sees the Lilywhites now nine points adrift at the bottom of the Premier Division table with just four games left, and their place in the dreaded playoff will be as good as mathematically confirmed should they lose in Derry.
Dundalk, though, have fared well against the Candystripes this season, taking four of their 16 points from them, with one of their three league wins coming at The Brandywell back in April thanks to goals in either half from Michael Rafter and the now-departed Shane O’Neill.
The Louth club also came from behind to earn a point against Derry at Oriel Park in July, in Kierans’ second game in charge, when captain Chris Shields headed in five minutes from time to cancel out David McDaid’s opener.
And now the 33-year-old wants his players to show similar fight when they travel north on Tuesday, where he says he may “learn a lot” about his side.
“I’m looking for a positive reaction from the players after Friday night,” Kierans told dundalkfc.com. “The performance was poor and probably less said about it the better.
“We have to go to Derry now and put in a positive performance. We’ll have Derek Foran back and we’ll probably make a couple of changes.
“You have to be realistic about it now and look at the playoffs but we will take every game as it comes and go out to win every game no matter what it is.
“We will learn a lot about the players after Friday. They are going to have to want to bounce back themselves.
“The performance was unacceptable and everyone knows that.
“Derry are not having the best of times themselves but like us they have a cup semi-final next weekend and will be looking for a positive result going into that.
“You have to go into every game with an ‘x’ amount of confidence and hopefully we can go there and put Friday behind us.”
Dundalk have picked up just five points from the last 45 available and have lost the last six league games on the trot. They are also without a league clean-sheet since Shelbourne visited Oriel Park on 6 April, over 2,000 minutes of action ago.
Their last league win was 16 outings and over four months ago, against Saint Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park on 21 May when Mark Griffin netted a late brace of free-kicks in a 2-1 victory.
Since then, they have lost crucial leads against UCD, Sligo Rovers, Shamrock Rovers, Bray and Drogheda United, going on to pick up just three points from a possible 15 from those winning positions.
At the same time, they have gained just two points having been behind in the other ten games in that period.
In between all that, they have put together a spirited FAI Cup run and entertain St. Pat’s in the last four of that competition at Oriel Park on Sunday afternoon (kick-off 3.55pm).
And they will be hoping to enter that game on the back of a good result. This season’s results have continued a good record against Derry for the Lilywhites, who have won seven, drawn five and lost five of their last 17 league encounters with the northern club.
On their last nine trips to The Brandywell, going back to 1997, Dundalk have won four, drawn three and lost twice.
They are also undefeated in the month of October away to Derry, in four league visits, winning two and drawing two, the most recent of those being a 2-1 victory 15 years ago.
Out: Mark Griffin (suspended) & Garreth Brady (ankle)
Doubtful: Michael Rafter (groin) & Mark O’Brien (ill)
Back: Derek Foran (suspension) & Lorcan Shannon (unavailable)
Recovered: Gary Shanahan (thigh)
Kierans can recall Derek Foran, Lorcan Shannon and top scorer Gary Shanahan for the game, which was originally due to take place on Friday but was rescheduled because of the clubs’ FAI Cup semi-final involvement.
Foran returns from suspension, Shannon comes back in having been unavailable due to the terms of his loan agreement from Rovers and eight-goal Shanahan is fully fit again having missed the last two games with a thigh injury.
However, striker Mark Griffin has been handed a two-match additional ban by the FAI Disciplinary Committee after his recent red card against Shelbourne, meaning he will miss the next three games as he also has a ban to serve for accumulating four yellow cards.
Fellow frontman Michael Rafter (groin) and central midfielder Mark O’Brien (ill) are doubtful, while youngster Garreth Brady (ankle) remains on the sidelines.