Dundalk could be without up to 11 players for their game against Cork City at Turner’s Cross on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm), with five regulars certain to miss the long trip south.
Centre-half Derek Foran (groin), top scorer Gary Shanahan (ankle), the versatile Paul Walsh (groin), central midfielder John Mountney (appendix) and left-back Eoghan Osborne (suspension) all miss out.
Added to that, striker Mark Griffin (ear infection), experienced central defender Liam Burns (calf), central midfield pair Stephen McDonnell and Mark O’Brien (both flu), and forward duo William Woods (back) and Bob McKenna (shin splints) are all doubtful.
Young midfielder Garreth Brady (ankle) returned to training this week.
But while his team are decimated by injury, suspension and illness, manager Darius Kierans sees the game as another good opportunity for his young guns to impress, after 17-year-old midfielder Conor McDonald shone with a ‘Man of the Match’ performance against Bohemians last Saturday.
Eighteen-year-old McKenna also netted a late equaliser having entered as a substitute just minutes earlier, with the Skerries native – prolific in the club’s underage teams over the past 15 months – grabbing his first league goal.
“We’re missing a lot of players but some of our younger players came in last week and did well, and Friday night is an opportunity for them to do so again,” Kierans said.
“Everything is focussed towards the playoff now for us but you go into every game looking for a positive result and hopefully we can build on last week’s draw against Bohemians. That was a game I felt we should have won.
“There were a lot of positives to take out of that performance, with a very young team. Conor McDonald was excellent, Bob McKenna came on and scored, Peter Thomas came in and did quite well at centre-half, and William Woods did very well too.
“Cork are a very good side and Turner’s Cross is always a difficult place to go, but it will be a good experience for our younger players.
“Our main focus now is the playoff and making sure we have our best team available for that, but we’ll go to Cork and look to follow on from last week’s result.”
Stephen Maher, who scored on his 50th league appearance for the club against Bohs, is available but will miss next Friday’s visit of Bray Wanderers through suspension.
Peter Cherrie will this weekend move into clear fifth ahead of Ted McNeill in the club’s All-Time Goalkeeper Appearances list with his 139th outing, which will leave him 35 behind the man he replaced in 2009, Chris Bennion.
Dundalk’s last league win was 18 games ago, away to Saint Patrick’s Athletic on 21 May, with the side picking up just six points from the last 51 on offer.
Last week’s 2-2 draw at home to Bohs stopped the Louth club falling to an eighth straight league defeat.
Against Cork this season, the Lilywhites were unlucky to lose 3-2 at Turner’s Cross back in May when Michael Rafter and Shanahan were on the mark for the visitors.
At Oriel Park in August, Shanahan also netted against the Leesiders to cancel out Ian Turner’s opener and earn his side a point in a 1-1 draw.
Dundalk last won in Cork three visits ago, on a 2-1 scoreline in June 2009, thanks to first-half goals from Chris Turner, from the penalty spot, and Michael Daly.