One of the most remarkable aspects about Dundalk’s run of victories over the past couple of months has been the lack of nervousness or anxiety in their performances.
Title run-ins are notorious for reducing even the most experienced of football players to quivering wrecks but Stephen Kenny’s players seem to be revelling in their role as title challengers.
The performances - with the exception of the Drogheda United game on September 8 - and certainly the results are there to back that up.
Since the final series of games began against Bray Wanderers on July 26, Dundalk have won six league games on the trot, picking up maximum points from the 18 available.
Mark Rossiter is one of only three players in the Dundalk squad to have been down the road of a championship run-in before.
‘Rossi’ has two league winners medals to his name from his time spent as part of Pat Fenlon’s powerful Bohemians side who marched to successive titles in 2008 and 2009.
And speaking ahead of Friday night’s crunch encounter with St Patrick’s Athletic - another of his former clubs - in Inchicore, Rossiter felt that there were similarities between the Bohs side of the past and this current Dundalk outfit.
“We’ve won eight on the trot which is some going”, he said. “I can’t recall ever doing that with Bohs.
“Both teams are laced with quality but the expectations were quite different. It was expected of Bohs whereas people have been expecting us to fall away. We’re not, though, and we’re confident in ourselves.
“We have a great manager behind us and we know that we are going into every game looking to outwork the opposite and let our quality shine through.”
Dundalk’s run of victories has seen them reel Pat’s in. At one stage Liam Buckley’s men were nine points in front of the Lilywhites but now the sides are tied on 58 apiece with just six games to play.
Rossiter knows how important a win would be for either side but he said it would not determine the outcome of the title.
“It’s not going to be the winning or the losing of the league”, he said. “Both teams have five games left after it so regardless of who wins, it’s still only one bad result away from being level pegging again.
“Sligo Rovers are still in there, five points behind”, he added.
“They’re not out of touch and they still have to play St Pat’s so it’s all to play for.
“What we’ve done is put ourselves in a great position but there is no point in doing that and then losing the next five games and dying off”, he added.
“We need to approach each game the right way and win them. Ultimately that is what we are aiming to do. We want to win every game and we are capable of doing that.”
It is getting to the stage of the season that Alex Ferguson once famously referred to as ‘squeaky bum time’ but Rossiter said that Dundalk had nothing to fear.
“It’s exciting being in a title race. What is there to worry about? You have to embrace it.
“In my era it was probably different but the 21 and 22-year-olds of today really are fearless and you have to remember that the likes of Richie Towell and Kurtis Byrne have played in the Scottish Premier League.
“Some of the others in the squad have come back from England so it’s not as though these games are the biggest they have ever played in.
“As a player, it might be the only time you ever get to be involved in a title race so, again, we have to embrace it.”
The Dundalk fans are certainly embracing a title run in. Another sizeable contingent made the trip to Tolka Park for last Friday night’s FAI Cup quarter-final win over Shelbourne and even more are expected to make the journey to Inchicore for the Pat’s game.
“They have been unbelievable all season”, said Rossiter. “You look at the Drogheda United game on a Sunday evening; a lot of people would have been happy to sit at home and enjoy their day off but they came out in their thousands.
“It’s superb for us”, he added. “We love winning for them and we love playing or them. We have six league games left and we will be giving it our all and who knows where it will take us.”