DFC | Shields hoping to get Slovan out of the system as Dundalk FC begin FAI Cup defence away to Cobh

FAI Cup Preview | Cobh Ramblers v Dundalk FC

Chris Shields is adamant that lightning won’t strike twice when Dundalk turn their attention back to domestic matters with a trip to Cobh on Saturday evening.

After playing Slovan Bratislava in the plush surroundings of the Tehelne Pole on Wednesday night, Dundalk begin their defence of the FAI Cup when they travel to the more modest surroundings of St Colman’s Park on Saturday evening.

Cobh pulled off a huge upset when they beat the Lilywhites in the semi-finals of the EA Sports Cup last year, a game that came just four days after Dundalk crashed out of the Europa League against Larnaca.

With the second leg against Slovan to come next Tuesday, it would be understandable if Dundalk’s focus appeared to be elsewhere but Shields denied that the cup game was a hindrance.

“No, it’s not because you don’t want history to bite you on the arse like last year,” he said. “We’ll go down and refocus against Cobh. We’ll be taking it seriously because you don’t want to be the victim of a giant-killing in the cup.

“We want to bounce back and Cobh could be a good game for us because there are players who didn’t play in Slovakia and it’s time to show the real quality of the squad. I believe we’ll do that on Saturday.”

Turning his attention back to Wednesday night’s ‘deflating’ 1–0 loss in Bratislava, Shields felt that Dundalk had done enough to keep a clean sheet against the Slovakian champions.

“It looked like it was going to be one of those nights where you put your body on the line and it works out. Gary Rogers made a few great saves and I thought myself and the back four defended quite well.

“We kept their clear cut chances to a minimum but it’s just bad luck then. How often do you see a shot hit off the post and go straight into a man’s path? That’s just the rub of the green that you need in Europe and they got it rather than us.”

Parallels with 2016, when Dundalk overturned a one-goal deficit to beat BATE Borisov in Tallaght, will undoubtedly be drawn in advance of the second leg and Shields said the players could use that experience as inspiration.

“We’ve been there and done it before,” he said. “There’s no point in saying ‘you’re dead and buried now’. It’s only half-time and we’re only 1–0 down. We’ve been in this position before. BATE were maybe a better team with more European pedigree at the time so we’ve got to back ourselves next week.

“I’d say we had the better of the clear cut chances but you have to be so clinical in Europe. When you see the Slovan ‘keeper made a wonder save like the one from John Mountney at the end then you know it’s not going to be your night.

“There’s no point in feeling sorry for ourselves, though, because we have another important game on Saturday,” he added, “and we want to go down and progress in the Cup. We have a cup to defend and that’s what we plan on doing.”

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