Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth feels that this Friday’s Unite the Union Cup tie with Linfield will be the perfect pick-me-up for his side after the disappointment of losing the FAI Cup final against Shamrock Rovers at the Aviva Stadium.
The Lilywhites travel to Windsor Park for the first time since 2010 to face David Healy’s Blues in the first-leg with the return game scheduled to take place at Oriel Park next Monday night.
Prize money of €50,000 is on offer for the winner of the new cross-border competition which pits the champions of the SSE Airtricity Legue against their Danske Bank Premiership counterparts. The runners up will receive half of that and Perth said that Dundalk’s penalty shootout loss to Rovers on Sunday would not alter their preparations.
“We’re really looking forward to the Linfield game,” said Perth. “No matter what happened today, we were always going to be respectful of it. The players will recover on Monday afternoon and we’ll train on Tuesday with Linfield in mind. That was always the plan and it hasn’t changed.”
The game comes just days after the IFA said it will not sanction its clubs to take part in Kieran Lucid’s proposed all-island league but Perth is hoping the clash of champions will catch the attention of football lovers north and south of the border.
“The all-island league took a knock last week and I hope that, as a spectacle, these matches can show people what it could actually be in the future. I hope it’s a good game and we’ll be focussed on it.”
Dundalk will face a Linfield side whose priorities clearly lie elsewhere. Due to their Europa League exploits in the summer, the Blues will have fallen three league games behind when the two-legged tie with Dundalk is over.
Their next league fixture is away to Sean Connor’s Institute at the Brandywell on Saturday, November 16th — five days after the second-leg at Oriel Park — and Healy said that was his main focus.
“Winning the Unite the Union Cup is certainly not going to keep me in a job,” he said. “The most important game for us in that period is the league game with Institute the following Saturday.
“We will play the home game this Friday and assess after that how we will approach the game in Dundalk a few nights later. Of course, we will go out to win but it will be a hell of a challenge for us because they are such a strong side.
“They are the club that everyone in Northern Ireland and Ireland aspires to be like for the way they go about their business of winning league titles and other trophies.”
Northern Ireland’s top scorer also said he would prefer if the competition was played as a one-off game. “The federations have decided that they want it over two legs, which is surprising,” said Healy. “Personally I think it should be over one game.”
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