Stephen O’Donnell says that Dundalk will go to Turner’s Cross on Monday night fully intending to ‘crank up’ the pressure on stuttering Cork City.
Stephen Kenny’s players make the journey south in tip-top condition after winning their last 10 games in all competitions — scoring 34 goals and conceding just two in the process — but they know that defeat on Leeside would see Cork crowned champions.
That looked to be a foregone conclusion when the SSE Airtricity League entered the mid-season break back in June with John Caulfield’s side holding a massive 18-point advantage over their bitter rivals at the summit.
Four defeats in their last six league matches, however, mean that City are stumbling — rather than swaggering — towards the finish line and O’Donnell knows that a Dundalk victory would only add to the pressure on the champions-elect.
“We’re going down there now with a puncher’s chance to really crank things up if we can win on Monday. That will really make Cork have to try and win it instead of just watching them freewheeling home,” said O’Donnell.
“People take it for granted that teams will easily close a league out but leagues are hard won. The closer you get to the line, the more you start to think about things,” he added.
“In football and a lot of other sports, it’s a mental challenge so it’s our job to go down there on Monday and try and crank things up on them.”
A win on Monday would see Dundalk cut Cork City’s lead back to eight points and also see them overtake the Leesiders on goal difference.
However, with just four games remaining after that — and 12 points up for grabs — O’Donnell acknowledged that the odds are still heavily stacked in Cork’s favour.
“Being realistic, we’re still massive outsiders. There’s still an 11-point gap but we’ve more of a chance now than we did a month ago.
“The pressure is all on Cork,” he added. “There’s no doubt about that. They were almost 20 points clear at one stage and if we win it’s back to single figures. It’s a shot to nothing for us and you just never know.”
Reflecting on Friday night’s 3–0 win over Drogheda United, O’Donnell said that Steven Kinsella’s 41st-minute opener was crucial.
“In the first half we weren’t great and we could have been one-nil down in the first 15 or 20 minutes.
“Drogheda don’t have bad players,” he added. “They’re young and they were up for it. They pressed us high, went man for man and turned the ball over a few times and nearly scored but the goal just before half-time helped.
“I think in these games, the longer it goes on, the more on top we’re going to get and in the second half we could have scored four or five,” continued O’Donnell.
“It probably wasn’t as good as we’ve been playing in the last five or six weeks but we would have taken 3–0 before the game.
“Everybody is in good form, lads are getting games and we’re all looking forward to Monday night now.”
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