Dundalk FC's Jamie McGrath and Roberto Lopes of Shamrock Rovers during Friday night's SSE Airtricity League Premier Division encounter at Tallaght Stadium. (Pic: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile)
Jamie McGrath insists that Dundalk FC “can’t afford to get complacent”, with two important fixtures this week as they aim to maintain their clear lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division ahead of the start of their European campaign.
McGrath returned from an absence of over eight weeks when coming off the bench at Tallaght Stadium on Friday, and it was the exciting young midfielder that unlocked the door for Seán Gannon’s 73rd minute winner.
The Athboy man had suffered a foot injury against Waterford at the end of April, and his bright cameo appearance against second-placed Shamrock Rovers may earn him a start against the struggling Blues when they visit Oriel Park on Monday night (kick-off 7:45pm).
Dundalk are unbeaten in 13 league games – winning 12 of those, including seven-in-a-row – and enjoy an eight-point advantage at the summit.
They face Waterford (eighth) and Derry City (fourth) this week, and McGrath stated that the prizes on offer are just as valuable as their top-of-the-table clash with Rovers.
“It’s still very early – there is a big six points to play for this week,” the 22-year-old said. “Three points on Monday night and Friday night are the same as against Shamrock Rovers.
“You saw Rovers were a good bit ahead earlier on in the season, so you can see how quickly it can change. We can’t afford to get complacent and maybe focus on Europe. We have to focus on each league game now and let Europe take care of itself when we get there.”
McGrath was alluding to Dundalk’s UEFA Champions League campaign, which gets underway with the first qualifying round first leg against Latvian champions Riga at Oriel Park next Wednesday evening.
The club announced on Sunday that general sales for that highly-anticipated clash will commence on Monday, at the ticket hatches outside the ground immediately after the Waterford game. There are approximately 1,000 tickets available for general sale, after the close of priority sales on Friday.
Meanwhile, the July transfer window officially opens on Monday, but Dundalk have stated that the returning Andy Boyle will not be eligible for selection until the trip to Derry at the end of the week.
Defensive duo Daniel Cleary and Dean Jarvis are available again after they both served one-match suspensions, but midfielder Jordan Flores (hip flexor) remains out. Centre-half Stephen Folan’s knee injury has also resurfaced.
Dundalk have comfortably defeated Waterford in both meetings so far this season, with a 4-0 win – albeit a harsh scoreline – at Oriel Park in March followed by a 3-0 victory in that aforementioned encounter in April.
Waterford have attacking issues, with strike-pair Aaron Drinan and Ismahil Akinade recently departing. They completed the loan signing of midfielder Sam Bone from Shamrock Rovers on Sunday.
In their team news bulletin for the trip to Dundalk, they state that Zack Elbouzedi and Kevin Lynch remain sidelined, while Karolis Chvedukas and Dean Walsh are also expected to miss the game through injury. Georgie Poynton returns from suspension while Dean O’Halloran is available for selection after completing a loan spell with Bray Wanderers.
Alan Reynold’s men went down 2-1 to Bohemians at the RSC on Friday after an injury-time concession, and they have won just one of their last eight outings on the road.
They have not won in Dundalk since January 2003 when a late Daryl Murphy lob virtually sealed the First Division title.
Monday’s game will also see the start of a pilot project which will allow overseas supporters to stream four of Dundalk’s upcoming league games at a price of €9.99, or an individual game at a cost of €3.99. Full details are available on the club’s official website, dundalkfc.com.