IF Dundalk are to win the Setanta Cup this season they will have to do things the "hard way" according to manager Ian Foster.
The 34-year-old was speaking just hours after seeing his side paired with Linfield FC in the first round of the revamped competition. It will be the first time the sides have met in a competitive match since the infamous European Cup tie in 1979 which was marred by serious crowd trouble, resulting in the second leg being played in Holland.
Foster said that he was aware of the rivalry between both clubs but that his focus was on matters on the pitch – not off it.
"They are an excellent side and they will be very competitive. Linfield are always there or thereabouts in the Irish League so we know it will be very tough. If you want to win a competition then you have to do it the hard way and with Linfield and possibly Glentoran after that in the quarter-finals, we will certainly have to do it the hard way."
Dates for the first round were only confirmed this week. The first leg will be played at Windsor Park on Monday February 14 with the second leg pencilled in for either Monday 28 February or Tuesday 1 March – the same week that the 2011 League of Ireland campaign will begin.
"It's fantastic to test yourself against sides like Linfield and the two games will really bring us on fitness wise, but the huge advantage that they will have is the timing of the games", said Foster. "It was all a bit cloak and dagger regarding the dates of the games but they are set now. It means we will have to start pre-season earlier than we first expected.
"It is not ideal", he continued. "I usually like to have six or seven games played before we get up and running competitively. I would imagine that the maximum we will have played before the first leg is two but we will get on with it and hopefully we can give a good account of ourselves in Belfast before bringing it back to Oriel".
With €50,000 prize money at stake for the winners, the Setanta Cup is not to be sniffed at. Foster admits it would be nice to land such a windfall but not at the expense of his side's domestic targets.
"We will prepare for the two games in the right manner and there is a lot of prestige attached to winning an All Ireland title but we have a big season ahead. We won't be chucking everything at it and risking burning out midway through the season.
"If it was the old group format we might have been able to play the first game and nick a point but with it being a knock out competition now, it makes our task a lot tougher."
The Dundalk boss had no fresh news with regards to adding to his playing squad. Bohemians defender Ken Oman is one name that has been linked with a move to Oriel Park but with his budget running low, Foster was quick to dismiss the rumours.
"With the money that we have left, we have to be diligent and very cute. Players like Ken Oman and Jason McGuinness would be fantastic players to have in the squad but they cost a few bob and the truth is, we just don't have it."