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'I think it is possible to get the club back to where it has been'

Vinny Perth remained optimistic after seeing his side bow out of Europe during the week.

Vinny Perth pictures after the Vitesse game.
Vinny Perth pictures after the Vitesse game.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

VINNY PERTH is optimistic Dundalk can get back to the level past Lilywhites sides have reached, despite watching his team fall agonisingly short against Vitesse in the Europa Conference League on Thursday.

The 45-year-old Dubliner also says Irish sides, in general, can take encouragement from their performances in Europe this season, believing the succession of positives results are not a one-off.

“I genuinely think that clubs are on a sound footing now,” he told reporters in the wake of the Vitesse loss. “So I think it’s achievable. We’re not going to have stadiums like this [Tallaght] all over the country in the next four, five or ten years, it’s just not going to happen. We can’t keep hiding behind excuses, whether it’s TVs or stadiums. We’ve got to do it internally in our league.

“It’s a mixture of everything [that's needed] and I don’t think it’s a simple answer. People just can’t give up and you know Sligo and Pat’s are pushing the boundaries this season and forcing Bohs and Dundalk under pressure to qualify for Europe and that’s what you want.

“So it needs strength from within. I think we’re starting to see that with what Sligo and Pat’s are doing, is putting ourselves and Bohs under pressure as clubs. That’s great, we’ve got to get better or we won’t be part of the discussion when it comes to European football. It’s now internal, I think the quality of the player is coming and I think the coaching is coming. We’re closer than people would see.”

Bohs suffered a similarly disappointing defeat to Greek outfit PAOK, losing 3-2 on aggregate after a 2-1 first-leg win.

It means Shamrock Rovers are now the only Irish side left in Europe, after the reigning Premier Division champions secured a convincing 3-0 aggregate win over Teuta.

Unlike their Premier Division rivals, the Hoops were included in the competition’s champions path, which increases the likelihood of a more favourable draw.

“It’s massive,” Perth said. “Or else, [you need to] get really lucky. Even if we won tonight, it’s not enough to take you into [the group stages of] a European competition. Irish clubs have to have one big, big result probably to get to a group stage normally.

“So the champions route is paramount to getting a club regularly into the group stages. Otherwise, you’re just relying on a bit of luck and we haven’t had that over the last couple of years. Maybe, to be fair, the one-off games last year suited the club. It is difficult, the side Bohs are playing, the side we’re playing tonight, so it’s really difficult.”

Despite performing admirably for much of their European campaign this season, the same can’t be said for Dundalk when it comes to their domestic form. They are currently seventh in the table, albeit with a couple of games in hand on most of their rivals as they travel to face Derry this afternoon. Therefore, the top-three finish, which guarantees European football, looks a long way off at present.

“We’ve 45 points to play for, we’re on the back foot, we can’t afford to lose very many matches between now and the end of the season or else someone has to have a collapse. The problem is we have three or four teams ahead of us as well as the three that ultimately you’re chasing. Maybe there will be a fourth spot in the league. We’re relying on things going our way.”

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And can Dundalk cope without Euorpe?

“Yes, they can. I get that sense, whether people want to believe that or not, that’s their own decision. I believe we can.

“And if we do miss out, we’ve only got ourselves to blame. But I think we can cope with that. I think we’ve to have a year to rebuild as a club, we’re rebuilding from a position of — not strength — but from a decent enough position. I think it is possible to get the club back to where it has been I really do think that.”

Perth was also unwilling to make any definitive statements about his own future in the job, with his current contract due to expire at the end of the year, but hinted he is hopeful of staying on.

“I genuinely haven’t made any decisions. I love this, I love this environment, being back at this level. I like to think I’ve proven maybe to myself that I can turn a team around and they can play a certain style but I haven’t made that decision yet. The last 12 months have been very difficult so I haven’t made that decision. I am discussing that stuff in a lot of detail with the club and what I’m hearing from them tells me maybe it is a good opportunity, but it is still early for that.”

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Paul Fennessy

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