Stuart Byrne talks major positives on a big week for Dundalk on and off the pitch

Ex-Shels midfielder looks ahead to AZ clash as well as gaining ownership of the ground

Dundalk, Sean Gannon, Daryl Horgan

Dundalk's Sean Gannon, Daryl Horgan and John Moutney before the game ©INPHO/Mikhail Kireev

On Thursday, Dundalk return to Europa League action against AZ Alkmaar with a knockout round place very much a possibility after four points from four games in the opening clashes.

The League of Ireland champions have already avoided defeat to the Dutch side after an equaliser from Ciaran Kilduff in the 1-1 draw in Alkmaar, which perhaps bodes well for the return match at Tallaght Stadium on Thursday. 

"Their away form has been very, very good. But of course the key here is that when you look at the fact that they've played all the teams around them now, they know what they're about," said former Shelbourne midfielder Stuart Byrne on Off The Ball.

"Now, that can have a negative as other teams will know what they're about as well and they may come to Tallaght Thursday with a different point of view.

"By all means, looking at the table and looking at the goal difference, the goal difference for Alkmaar means a positive result for Dundalk will rule [AZ] out probably completely.

"But I was kind of thinking, maybe two draws would do it for [Dundalk to get second]. But I don't think they'll think that way. They'll look to win the game on Thursday. And I think winning the game on Thursday might just do it for them." 

Ciaran Kilduff on the Oriel Park pitch ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Meanwhile, it's been a big week for the club as Dundalk are aiming to replace their artificial pitch at Oriel Park with a new surface ahead of the 2017 season, having taken over ownership of the ground.

"I think this is a hugely positive story. I think it's a positive all round for the club," he said of an important step.

"The issue with the pitch wasn't the fact that it was artificial. That's never been the gripe. The gripe has been that it should have been relaid two years ago at least. It was just worn down for whatever reason. It didn't seem to perform to the way it should have done."