DUNDALK Youths face their stiffest test of the season to date when they take on Dublin side Belvedere in the third round of the FAI Under-17 Youth Cup at Oriel Park on Sunday. Kick-off at 11am.
Alan Browne and Raymond 'Mondo' Trimble's side booked their spot in round three with a classy 7-2 win over Lourdes Celtic at Oriel Park in November but due to the arctic weather conditions over the Christmas period, that outing was their last competitive match.
Despite their lack of action, the management duo have kept the squad on their toes by arranging friendlies and gym work and Browne is confident his young guns will be ready when the whistle blows on Sunday morning.
"We had the lads in the gym and in the JJB Soccer Dome over the Christmas period so their fitness levels are good", he said.
"This game was due to be played on December 12 but it was postponed due to the bad weather and Oriel Park was also closed for the whole month of December.
"We've kept busy though and we played three friendly games with Muirhevnamor, Crumlin United's Under-18 team and the MDL representative squad. Some of our lads also played in a friendly game against the Irish Under-17 team at Oriel Park last week, which myself and 'Mondo' were more than pleased with.
"We have two more training sessions before Sunday's game so we'll be well prepared. Considering the weather we've had, things have worked out well in relation to our preparation."
Browne and Trimble also have the luxury of a full squad to choose from with only long term injury victim Gerard McSorley absent for Sunday's clash.
"We had a couple of lads with minor injuries last week but apart from Gerry we should have everybody available. Gerry should be back doing a bit in the next couple of weeks and we are looking forward to seeing him back in training."
The Youths boss is under no illusion of how difficult the task is ahead of his side. Belevdere currently sit top of the DDSL Under-17 Premier League - a division ahead of Dundalk - but Browne is confident that his squad have the ability and attitude to book their place in round four.
"We know it will be a difficult game with Belvedere but we also know we have a strong squad to choose from and we are well capable of progressing to the next round. The attitude the boys have shown so far has been exceptional. They train very hard and they know what myself and 'Mondo' expect from them. We have no doubt we can win this game. We have every faith in the boys that they do it."
Browne and Trimble have also issued a rallying call to all Dundalk fans to come out and support the club's youngsters who are aiming to follow in the footsteps of the side who went all the way to the FAI Under-18 Youth Cup final in 2008
"The winners of the tie have a home draw against Wilton United from Cork so it's a great incentive to get through this stage and be at home again in the next round", said Browne.
"We are hoping that we can get good support from all football supporters and people around the town because, like all Dublin teams that come to Oriel Park, Belvedere will have plenty of support with them and I am sure it will be a good entertaining game."