Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny has banned any mention of Hadjuk Split amongst his players and insists there is still a job to be done against Jeunesse Esch in Thursday night’s Europa League first qualifying round second leg at Oriel Park.
Some Dundalk supporters have already booked their flights to Croatia for the second round following the Lilywhites’ 2-0 win over Jeunesse in Luxembourg last week. But, while Kenny admitted his side were in a strong position to advance, he warned against complacency, citing the recent World Cup last 16 tie between Belgium and the USA as an example.
“We’re solely focussed on the second leg against Jeunesse Esch,” said Kenny. “There are no formalities in football. We’re 2-0 up but we’ll have to work hard in the second leg.
“You have to earn the right to win every game. We’re not through. There are 90 full minutes to play. We seen in the Belgium and USA game at the World Cup recently. It was 2-0 to the Belgians at half-time in extra time and they were high giving each other and congratulating each other. They thought the job was done. Come the end of the game they were hanging on for dear life. That was a 15 minute period, we have 90 minutes to do the job so we have to be right.”
“Jeunesse will be coming over here determined, they have chartered their own flight and they will be coming with high expectations. They’ll want to retrieve it so we’ll have to be professional.”
If Dundalk advance past Jeunesse, they will have home advantage in the first leg against Hadjuk Split on July 17. Before that, there is the small matter of a trip to Tallaght to face a Shamrock Rovers side who are now just three points behind Dundalk following their 2-1 win over St Pat’s on Saturday night.
“Rovers are title challengers,” insisted Kenny. “We’re looking forward to going there but it will be tough after the Thursday night game in Europe.”
“We knew this would be a tough run of away games: Derry City, Shamrock Rovers and Cork City in a couple of weeks,” he added.
“If we do play Hadjuk then we might move the home games against Athlone Town and Bray Wanderers to a Monday night. We can’t move the away games but a Monday game would help us. That extra 24 hours after a high intensity European game gives us maximum recovery and would be huge.”
Kenny added to his squad at the weekend with the signing of attacking player Donal McDermott. The 24-year-old has been with the squad for the past month and has impressed the Dundalk manager.
“Donal is extremely talented. He is a left footed player and we don’t have too many of those in our squad. He has been in and worked very hard over the last few weeks. He can play in that number 10 position or wide on any flank so he will be a good addition to us.”
Cork City, who sit joint top of the SSE Airtricity League table alongside Dundalk, have been busy bolstering their squad in recent weeks, most notably with the signing of striker John O’Flynn. However Kenny said he wouldn’t be disappointed if McDermott was the only new face at Oriel Park this summer.
“We took Donal in because Stephen O’Donnell is injured and we have a high proximity of games coming up. Will we sign anymore? I don’t think so but we’ll see. We don’t need radical surgery.”