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Saturday 3 December 2016

Drogheda boss John McDonnell: Chasing pack haven't given up the fight

Drogheda boss insists chasing pack have to try and match up to League's big guns

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AS THE crow flies, just 40km separates the Co Louth towns of Dundalk and Drogheda.

But in football terms, they're much, much further apart that that and with only six games gone in the season, a nine-point gap shows just how far ahead Dundalk are of their neighbours.

In fact, the 2015 season could already be seen as a case of the haves (in the top three) and the have-nots, although Bohemians (just a point behind Cork City and Shamrock Rovers) would have a view on that along, with St Patrick's Athletic.

With extra UEFA funding on the way for the clubs who will represent Ireland in Europe next summer - Dundalk will get an added payment of €125,000 on top of what was on offer last year just for being in the Champions League, that bonus more cash than they got from the FAI for winning the league in the first place - fears have already been expressed that the rich will just get richer with the rest left to starve.

Today, the job for John McDonnell is to prepare his Drogheda side to face Dundalk at Oriel - no easy task, seeing as Dundalk won this fixture 7-0 last season. But instead of crying foul about the money available to the top clubs, the veteran coach says it's up to the chasing pack to pull up their socks and reach the same heights as teams like the current champions and leaders.

"It's not an unfair playing field just because Dundalk just have more money than us at the moment, and they have done really well over the last few years. They clearly have a bigger budget now, but we are in the same league as them and we have to try and compete with them, and the other top teams," McDonnell told The Herald.

"Financially we are miles off the likes of Dundalk, and they are now ready to get even more money with the new grants available from UEFA - but good luck to them.

"They are training every day so they are physically stronger and straight away you are behind them. But on the day, if we put in the best performance we can, we have a chance against Dundalk or anyone else. It's not easy and you can't give away an early goal, if Dundalk tonight or Rovers next week score early against the likes of us, you just don't peg them back, they are a bit like Chelsea in that way," added McDonnell.

"Where were Dundalk five years ago, and how did they get to where they are now? Did they have a financial benefactor or was it a case of the club being well-run? Did they just get a manager in Stephen Kenny who got in the right players and stayed in his budget?

"In five years' time could Sligo or Derry be where Dundalk are now? I don't begrudge Dundalk or Rovers or anyone else the money they have now and the added UEFA money they'll get this year.

"I want us to be up there, I want Drogheda to be in Europe and getting that cash," added McDonnell.

"This happen across Europe, you have it in Spain, the same in England, three or four teams who can win the league and the rest below them. You have three leagues within the Premier League in England and two leagues in our division here.

"That's just the way it is, it doesn't mean you can't go out and play well, the way Limerick did last week to take a point off Dundalk. If Limerick can get a point why can't we?"

"We can talk about budgets all day, but as a manager you have to just get your team together and put them out to play. We have done ok, we won our first two matches this season, we haven't won since but I know we are capable of winning games.

"So there's no lack of confidence from the group, we know we should have more points than we have. We have a hard run now, Dundalk tonight and then Cork, Pats and Rovers in a few weeks. We are capable of getting results, it's a matter of doing it. I know we are doing things right."

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