DFC | Perth understands treble talk as Dundalk FC look to clear a big hurdle at the Brandywell

EA Sports Cup Final 2019 Preview | Derry City v Dundalk FC

Runaway league leaders, EA Sports Cup finalists and one win away from another FAI Cup final appearance, Vinny Perth can fully understand why talk of a treble is rife around Dundalk.

Some people in Perth’s position would be quick to downplay that sort of chit-chat but the 43-year-old freely admits it is something that has been spoken about in the Dundalk dressing room.

One could interpret that as arrogance but, speaking ahead of this evening’s sell-out EA Sports Cup final with Derry City at the Brandywell, the Lilywhites head coach says it’s merely a sign of the hunger amongst his players.

“Certain gurus would say ‘it’s one game at a time’ and we do focus on one game at a time but the treble has been mentioned,” said Perth. “They’re a very ambitious group and internally we do have ambitions and we do drive ourselves to set high standards.

“Ultimately, our number one goal is the league and that’s what we focus on each year but the knock-on effect of having a really good squad is that we’re still in all the cups. So, yes, it has been mentioned. It would be wrong to say it hasn’t but we’ve still a lot of work to do.

“The feeling certainly isn’t ‘If we win this, the treble is in the bag’. We have a huge amount of work to do. Saturday is one of the legs of the stool as such and the players are very determined to win the trophy now. It’s a real stepping stone to what’s ahead of them.”

Under Stephen Kenny, Dundalk won the league and FAI Cup double in 2015 and 2018, making their exit from the EA Sports Cup at the semi-final stage in both seasons. Four years ago, they lost on penalties to Galway United but it was a shock 1–0 defeat to Cobh Ramblers last August that sticks in the craw of Perth and his players.

“There was huge disappointment last year when we lost to Cobh,” he said, “but we have learnt lessons from it. We went down to play them in the FAI Cup recently and we brought down every member of our first-team squad because we wanted the players to understand that we respect every competition.

Tonight’s opponents are the only club to have won all three domestic trophies in one season. Jim McLaughin’s all-conquering side of 1988/’89 is revered on Foyleside and if the Candystripes needed an extra incentive to beat Dundalk, preserving that record should be it.

The sides have already met on three previous occasions in the Walled City this season. Dundalk won the league game back in March and edged a five-goal thriller in the FAI Cup just last month. Goals, therefore, should not be hard to come by but Perth believes the outcome is in the balance, despite Declan Devine’s claim that his team start at rank outsiders.

“It’s arguable who the favourites are,” said Perth. “I believe the game is sold out and we expect the Brandywell to be really loud so we’re going to have to go into the lion’s den and take it on.

“We’ve both gone at each other hammer and tongs this year and it’s set up to be a brilliant game of football,” he added. “If we don’t lift the trophy, we’ll have been beaten by a team who have been fairly impressive.

“The two clubs are interlinked through Jim McLaughlin and Stephen Kenny, two of the greatest managers of all time. I did work for Derry for a season under Stephen as his match analyst when Devine was there and there are a lot of similarities between the style of football that we play and the style that Derry play.

“You wonder if Stephen’s influence has left a mark on us. I’m sure it has to a point but I’d like to think that the two of us are very individually driven in terms of our own style and I think you’ve seen that in the number of goals scored in the games between us this year.”

Talk of the ‘t-word’ will only intensify if Dundalk win the competition for the third time since 2014. That victory kickstarted a trophy-laden spell at Oriel Park and Perth is hoping for a similar outcome this evening.

“I always found that this competition can be a catalyst for teams,” he remarked. “I won it myself as a player when I was at Longford Town and we went on to do the cup double that year and we got real confidence out of this at Dundalk in 2014 because it was the first trophy we won and it gives players a bit of belief and a mentality that they can go on and win stuff.

“As much as people are being very presumptuous that Dundalk are about to win this trophy and that, we still have hurdles to get over but this is a massive opportunity and, hopefully, a catalyst for something bigger.”

Dundalk midfielder Sean Murray is back in contention for a place in the starting line-up after resuming full training this week but Daniel Kelly, who scored a hat-trick in the FAI Cup quarter-final win over Waterford on Monday night will have a late fitness test.

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