Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny shares a joke with home supporters before Saturday afternoon's match at Finn Park. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny feels Chris Shields’ injury may not be as bad as first feared, while he is 'hopeful' that the midfielder will return before the end of the season.
Despite suffering a knee ligament injury during last week’s draw with Shamrock Rovers, a knock which ruled him out of Saturday’s match with Finn Harps, Shields is believed to be back running as his recovery bid steps up a notch.
But, while Kenny was open about Shields' situation, he was coy when asked about the injuries currently hampering the involvements of Dane Massey, Steven Kinsella and Niclas Vemmelund respectively.
“We’re hopeful he’ll (Chris Shields) be back before the end of the season. It’s a lateral ligament injury,” Kenny said following Saturday’s victory over Harps.
“It’s an injury that is going to rule him out for a while, but he’s been trying to do some light jogging.
“Patrick McEleney also had to sit today out, Dane Massey and Steven Kinsella (are injured on a longer-term basis), and Niclas Vemmelund, of course, we’ll have to see about him before Tuesday night,” Kenny added.
Despite wanting to win in Ballybofey over the weekend, Kenny took the decision to rest a number of key players, with Stephen O’Donnell, Michael Duffy and David McMillan only featuring as second-half substitutes.
Ultimately, it took their introductions to swing the tide in the visitors’ favour, but Kenny still feels justified in making five changes to the side that drew with Rovers last Sunday week. Among those introduced were academy graduates Carlton Ubaezuono and Jake O’Connor – both of whom won their full league debuts.
“We have quite a few injuries and it’s caused us to stretch our squad to the limit. Obviously Tuesday’s game is paramount for us against Shamrock Rovers so it was a balancing act to get a team out to win today,” he said.
“It (the win) reduces the gap (to Cork City at the top of the table) to eight-points. We’re not clinging on to false hope, I think there’s an inevitability there, but we have won the league three years in a row so we didn’t want to surrender it here. We wanted to win, people would have said that the game was irrelevant, but it wasn’t, it was relevant to me.
“The young guys who came in acquitted themselves quite well. Carlton Ubaezuono and Jake O’Connor made their league debuts and they’ll remember that for the rest of their lives,” added Kenny.
The Dundalk manager also offered a brief, but definite appraisal of the Finn Park surface – a pitch which Brian Gartland labelled “the worst I've played on” after Dundalk’s last visit in April.
“It was a tough physical battle, an uncompromising game on an uncompromising pitch,” Kenny quipped.