DERRY CITY: The champions look ‘Dun’ for! - Shiels

Aaron McEeneff, Derry City, pictured in action against Dundalk's Daryl Horgan is set to return from suspension for tonight's league clash at Oriel Park.

Aaron McEeneff, Derry City, pictured in action against Dundalk's Daryl Horgan is set to return from suspension for tonight's league clash at Oriel Park.

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KENNY SHIELS believes Derry City are playing Dundalk at the perfect time, claiming the champions’ UEFA Europa League exertions are beginning to take its toll.

The Derry City boss watched the ‘Lilywhites’ limp to an uninspiring 1-1 draw at home to Shamrock Rovers on Tuesday night.

Every game is a cup final because of where they are in the league and it’s hard for them. The have to cram all these games in so there’s as much mental fatigue there as there is physical.

Kenny Shiels

The performance was enough for Shiels to claim Dundalk might not be quite as infallible as their league dominance would suggest.

In fact Shiels, who insists his players are ‘fresh’ despite a third game on the road, believes the Dundalk players are showing clear signs of both mental and physical fatigue after an exhaustive season where they continue to battle on three fronts.

And heading into tonight’s crunch clash at Oriel Park - the first of three significant fixtures which could yet define Derry’s season - the Derry manager believes he’s beginning to see the first chinks in Dundalk’s armoury.

He’s taken great encouragement from Dundalk’s midweek display against Rovers and has challenged his players to clinch three massive points at Oriel Park tonight.

“I said 10 days ago our players had done as much travelling as Dundalk players,” said Shiels. “But since then, having watched Dundalk, they are tired. And this is a great opportunity for us. We’re not tired, we’re fresh.

“Yes, Europe has disadvantaged them considerably and I see this as a great opportunity for us. The Dundalk players are tired,” he stressed. “There’s no question about that!

“I watched them on Tuesday night and it was a little bit insipid. It showed signals the players were tired. It wasn’t just one or two players, they were all the same. They just weren’t themselves. They have a big squad but they haven’t used their big squad this season. It’s not just the physical fatigue but the mental fatigue as well.

“Every game is a cup final because of where they are in the league. The have to cram all these games in so it’s hard for them.”