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Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Tommy Dickson/INPHO Dundalk manager Vinny Perth.
# Optimistic
'We have to create a new future' - Perth backs his players to deliver for Dundalk
The Lilywhites are away to Estonian side Levadia Tallinn this evening.

DUNDALK ARE BACK in familiar territory in Estonia this evening [KO 5.30pm Irish time] and yet a lot has changed since their last visit there three years ago.

Back in 2018, a side then managed by current Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny were 1-0 winners over Levadia Tallinn in the first leg of what was then a Europa League qualifier.

There has been much change at Oriel Park since then with Patrick Hoban – back in contention after a spell out with Covid-19 – the only survivor from that trip, which was decided by a Dylan Connolly goal eight minutes into the second half.

While two league titles, two FAI Cups, an EA Sports Cup and a Europa League campaign were secured since their last visit to Tallinn, the more recent history of Dundalk FC has been a club on the decline.

They’ve spent pretty much all of this season in the bottom half of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division but the return of Vinny Perth as head coach last month has at least seen a bit more stability return.

This evening’s tie is evenly poised following a 2-2 draw in Tallaght last week but Perth has challenged his much-changed side to repeat their victory in Tallinn from three years ago to ensure they have a Europa Conference League third qualifying round tie against Dutch side Vitesse to look forward to next week.

While many of Dundalk’s household names have departed since their last visit to the Estonian capital, Perth believes the new faces can “create a new future” for the club with a win at the A Le Coq Arena.

“The past is gone and we have to accept that the past is over. We have to create a new future,” he said.

“It’s the same with many teams. People question where the Dubs are at at the moment, albeit they continue to win, but people like to question teams that hit such a high.

“I don’t know where this team can go but there’s no doubt we’ve got real quality in it.

“When we look at our back four last week of Darragh Leahy, just out of an Irish U-21 campaign, Andy Boyle, Sonni Nattestad and Raivis Jurkovskis. As a club if we’re able to hold on to them with the back up that is around it then you’ll go a long way in the League of Ireland to find a better back four in my opinion.

“There is a lot of strength in depth within the group but the likes of Sonni Nattestad needs time. Very few players have come into the League of Ireland – particularly in Covid times and I can’t stress that enough – and hit the ground running but we’re starting to see these players emerge slowly but surely.

“My job is to get the best out of them between now and the end of the season and we can take it from there as a club and see what the right direction is.”

Michael Duffy (Covid-19) and long-term absentees Daniel Cleary and Brian Gartland haven’t made the trip but Dundalk have been boosted by the return of the club’s all-time leading league goalscorer Hoban, who hasn’t featured since scoring in the defeat away to Shamrock Rovers on July 2nd after a Covid diagnosis.

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“He has had some difficulties,” admitted Perth.

“He was signed off for an extra five or six days because he had some breathing issues when he first came back but he trained with the group yesterday morning and has travelled.

“Knowing Pat he’ll be looking to be involved so he’s certainly a real option for us and it’s a real boost to the group.”

With away goals no longer a factor in Europe, Perth admitted his side have practiced penalties ahead of the game but hopes it doesn’t go that far.

“I think the game will be decided late but I hope it’s not penalties to be fair. I hope it’s decided in normal time,” he said. 

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