Tickets remain on sale for this fixture – ensure your seat here. Kickoff in Tallaght Stadium is at 8 pm. The match will be streamed live on LOITV

You’ve had a good chance to review last week’s 2-1 loss to St. Pat’s. It was 5-10 minutes where we seemed to switch off and Pat’s took advantage which turned the game. How has the dressing room felt about it this week?

“After the game we were obviously gutted in the dressing room. This group of players understand when they’ve played well and when they haven’t. I thought genuinely, after the game, there wasn’t much said as they were really good on the night. Afterwards, at first I thought it was a 15-20 minute spell, but when you look back, it was six or eight minutes, it wasn’t even a spell. We just gave up awful goals. We’re not happy with that, we need to be better in those situations. But our overall performance, how we played, the chances we created, it’s very hard to be critical of what we did last Friday other than losing the game. I really liked what we did. These players have always been really good at moving on whether we win, lose or draw.

It’s not about forgetting, it’s about understanding it, how and why it happened, where we can be better and moving on quickly. These players do that really well.”

Our record this season is twelve points after eight games, last season we had eleven after eight, so we’re actually a point better off than our four in a row season. So there’s no panic within the group or staff.

“I think people look at points and I get that, then they assume we’re either doing well or badly, but we don’t do that. We look at the process it takes to get there and the performances. You look at the stats this year, they back up what we feel that we’re performing better this year than we were in 2023. The stats show, that other than crosses into the box, we’re first in the league in everything else in terms of entries into the box, touches in the box, shots, chances created and possession. So what it tells us is that we’re right where we want to be. Of course, we want more points and win more games and that goes without saying but we tend to look at how our performances and our processes are doing. We know if they’re good, the points tally will look after itself. We’re happy in one sense but we want more points and more wins, but there’s never any panic with the group. We know where we are and what we need to improve on.”

It seems incredible that of our eleven goals this season, Graham Burke has yet to score. His overall play however has been top quality and if he plays against Sligo it will be his 200th appearance for Rovers. Has Graham’s game evolved as he has matured and is he taking on more responsibility during games to help and advise younger players?

“Graham has become a real leader in the group. That comes with age and understanding of what we do. But what I love about Graham is his bravery to make things happen, to take the ball. I think he’s had the most shots in the league so it’s only a matter of time before he starts scoring. We know Graham scores goals, so that’s not something I’d be worried about at all. The most pleasing aspect of it is he has been fit, once you get Graham fit and in a run of games, you see how he’s been and I know I’m biased, but for me, he’s been the best player in the country this year. I’ve watched every team a number of times and it’s hard to look past what he’s doing. For me, he’s been top-class and has grown into a real leader. He leads in how he plays, and he demands of the group, younger and older players, Graham just wants to win. It’s brilliant that he’ll get 200 games for this club, he was here at the very start. He was the one who helped kickstart it when we sold him to Preston in terms of reinvesting that into the group. Then he came back, helped us win the FAI Cup in 2019 and has been here since the start of all that. So I hope he retires here and finishes his career at this club as he’s been a top player.”

This is our second clash of the season this weekend with Sligo Rovers after the scoreless draw away a few weeks ago. Like us, they have 12 points with a two-goal superior goal difference. What are the attributes/set-up in their team we need to be wary of given how recently we played them?

“Sligo are brilliant in transition. I know Simon Power (ex-Rovers) is suspended for this game, he’s the quickest player you’ll see, so when you have that and the quality to pick him out, that’s a really dangerous combination so Sligo have been really good in that respect. Even the games they lost, they’ll feel they were right in them to a certain point, so we’ll have to respect what Sligo are good at, as they’re very good at what they do.”

As you said, our former player Simon Power will miss out due to suspension, so his pace and directness will be one less issue for us against Sligo, but he’s likely to have an able replacement.

“I’m sure they’ll bring in the likes of Will Fitzgerald who’s quick as well, so I don’t think they’ll change too much in what they’ve been doing as they’ve been good at it. So we need to make sure we’re ready for it, respect it and with our pitch in Tallaght it should make for a better game and that should suit us better.”

How’s our injury list for this weekend’s game?

“Seán Kavanagh was given the all-clear during the week, Johnny Kenny is back, Trevor Clarke got some minutes last Friday, and we’re building Trevor back up. We still have to remember where we are in the season, we don’t want to rush anyone. The other lads are still a little bit away, but they’re all moving in the right direction which is the key thing. We’re hoping, all going well, we’ll have nearly all of them back sometime this month. A lot of them are impact injuries, so there’s not much we can do. We knew Aaron McEneff had come back with an injury, so we need to remain patient and we’ll get there with them but hopefully they’ll all be available this month.”