herald

Wednesday 23 August 2017

get it dun' and dusted

Massey eager for Lilywhites to put title win to bed against his former club Bray

IN AN age of instant updates, scoreflashes and smartphones, it's not easy for footballers to drown out the noise around them and ignore events outside their own arena.

But Dundalk defender Dane Massey says that his team-mates will ignore any distractions from their own task tonight and focus on the job of winning their first league title in two decades.

For the first time in a generation, two clubs head into the final round of games with league destiny in their own hands - as the top two of Dundalk and Cork City clash in Dundalk on the last weekend of the league, each club knows that by winning the last two games they can become champions.

Of course matters could be settled tonight, as if Bohemians manage to win away to Cork and if Dundalk triumph away to Bray Wanderers, the league will end up at Oriel Park.

Seeing as Bohs have managed just one win in the last six games, the chances of them winning away to a Cork side that has done five in a row are slim.

But at these late stages of a season, odd things happen - Shelbourne losing away to Cork and losing the title (2001), Bohemians losing to Galway (2010) - and Cork take on Bohs tonight clearly aware that City have yet to beat Owen Heary's side in four meetings this season.

Stadium announcers are no longer allowed to read out score updates, only half-time and full-time scores but should the Gypsies be on their way to an upset in Turner's Cross, smartphone-wielding Dundalk fans will surely let their players know.

"We'll probably have an idea what's going on in Cork, but it doesn't really matter," says defender Massey, in line to make his 31st consecutive league start for Dundalk against his former club Bray tonight.

"The gaffer has focused us on one game at a time, we beat Bray, we beat Cork, it's ours.

"From my own perspective I haven't been involved in anything like this before and it's brilliant. It's where you want to play, at the top, games like this. The run-in is unbelievable and I'm really enjoying it, enjoying my football and it's a great ending to a good season."

Massey nods in agreement with the idea that neutrals would like the title race to go down to the last day and that winner-takes-all meeting of Cork and Dundalk at Oriel Park next Friday. But as a former Bray player, he's also aware that the Carlisle Grounds has seen a few title parties in recent seasons.

"I think four out of the last five years, the league has been won at the Carlisle," says Massey, who joined Dundalk from Bray at the start of last season..

"I've always been on the other side of that, watching other teams lift the Cup and celebrate winning the league and it's been great this season for myself to be involved at the other end.

"I'm really looking forward to it. I was really tough to watch, as a player you want to play at the highest level you can but I just had to bide my time, really."

The defender is one of those players in the Dundalk squad whom success has been elusive in their careers to date, though Massey and his team-mates did land one trophy this season by winning the League Cup.

STRONGEST

Strangely, it was a display against a Stephen Kenny side which eventually led to that move to Dundalk." When Stephen was at Rovers they came to Bray, I played central midfield that day and played well, I set up the two goals and I should have scored myself, it was in that game that he saw something he liked, but he wanted me as a left full and that's where I feel strongest," he says.

"Once a manager can see that you are calm on the ball, they can implement their own game on yourself, he signed me and I was delighted to sign, he is a good manager, I saw what he did at Derry City, it was all football and there was only one thing I was going to do, sign for him."

And now, Dundalk stand on the verge of a league success, thanks in no small part to the effort at left back from Massey, whose form in September earned him the player of the month award from the Airtricity Soccer Writers Association.

"It's a huge opportunity," he says of this season, all too aware that Shamrock Rovers at least will pose a bigger threat next term.

"Teams are going to strengthen next year. We've two games left, six points will us the league and hopefully next year, we'll hold onto it. It's going to be twice as hard, Pat's dwindled away this year, everybody wants to beat the champions. This year and hopefully next year we'll keep it."

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