Friday night’s match in Tallaght Stadium kicks off at 8 pm. Tickets are still available. The match will be streamed live on LOITV

Looking back to last Friday and a 2-1 defeat away to Shels, in your post-match interview for SRFCTV, you were frustrated at our defensive performance for the first half hour. Was it a case of minds just not being switched on, a lack of verbal communication or a combination of both or something else?

“It’s a combination of both. The goals we gave away were really basic, goals you wouldn’t see on a Sunday morning in the local park with everything we spoke about leading up to the game. I was really disappointed from our point of view with the goals we gave away. Sometimes you concede and that’s football and that’s the way it goes, but not those types of goals. We gave ourselves a mountain to climb, but I thought we were brilliant for the last hour of the game, some of our play was at a really high level, some of the best we’ve produced in a long time. We created a number of opportunities and on another day could’ve scored three or four. We had three taken off the line and Dylan hit the crossbar. But we can’t think we can defend like that, we know as a group that’s not us, that’s not good enough, it’s not our standard, our level and it’s not the level we’ve brought ourselves to. Hopefully, it’s the first and last time it happens.”

At 2-0 down at half time, you have to try and do something to help climb that mountain. Graham Burke’s introduction and performance really gave us huge impetus and only some excellent goalkeeping by Conor Kearns arguably denied us at least a point.

“Graham is a top player. We all know that and what he brings to us. To be honest, I was worried about putting him on so early as he’s not long back after injury and I felt it was a bit too long for him to play. It was needs must at that time, but he was different level when he came on. Some of the play Graham, Dylan Watts, Gary O’Neill and Darragh Burns produced was of a really high level. If Rory’s goal was scored in England, people would be raving about it. From Dylan’s pass, Graham’s movement, into the box and the finish, it was really high-level stuff. Graham came through it ok as we were nervous about it.”

While we may have retrieved a point, we still had to rely on Leon in that second half with two top-quality saves. You must be happy how Leon has started the season as our first-choice keeper.

“I feel for Leon a bit, to be honest. The goal against Dundalk, we know their lad (Gullan) can hit those free kicks really well. The two goals last week against Shels, there’s nothing he can do about either goal. With the first goal, there were seven or eight bodies in his line so he couldn’t see it and we needed to get to the ball and we didn’t, so it ended up in the back of the net. The second goal is a complete switch-off from us defensively. Leon has performed really well, which we know he can. I’m just disappointed for him he hasn’t had a clean sheet yet and hopefully we get that for him tomorrow against Drogheda. But we can see as a keeper he has really grown and matured the last few years so we’re really happy with him.”

No team has a 100% record after two games and after last season’s slow start for us, there won’t be any panic at this stage among the group so other than our first half an hour last week, are you satisfied where we are in terms of performance two games in, especially given the early season injury setbacks?

“Yes, we’re really happy. Obviously, we want more points on the board, we wanted two wins. But I get a completely different feel around the group this year. Last year I could feel the tension, the nervousness and the tightness within the group with all the talk surrounding four in a row. This year I feel a complete freedom and freshness, so it’s a really nice feeling and I thought parts of the Dundalk performance showed that and the last hour last week also showed it. We need to turn that into a 90-minute performance now, but I like where the group is in terms of that aspect. We would like more points, but we won’t panic, we’ve been here before and know what it takes.”

We saw photographs of Pico rejoining the group this week, so will he be back playing soon and with Trevor and Neil already out for a spell, who else is unavailable for Drogheda on Friday and Derry Monday?

“Seán Kavanagh, Seán Hoare, Jack Byrne and Aaron McEneff are out, so we’re missing six or seven really top players but that’s the season and that’s what football throws at you. There’s no point in complaining or feeling sorry for yourself, that’s why I always say the best team wins the league. You have to deal with different obstacles and challenges every week and injuries are part of the game. Pico will be involved tomorrow, he came back in Monday after his three-and-a-half-week break, which was the plan. He did bits on Monday, and joined in on Tuesday, he’s not fully up to speed but the fact he’s back among the group is really important so he’ll be involved against Drogheda.”