Stuart Byrne has concerns about Dundalk's 2017 form

Former Shelbourne midfielder on a title race that is seeing Cork City run away with it

Dundalk, Stephen Kenny, Shamrock Rovers, Stephen Bradley

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny against Shamrock Rovers ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Stuart Byrne feels reigning SSE Airtricity League Premier Division champions Dundalk are in an "awful rut" as they find themselves well adrift of runaway league leaders Cork City.

After 12 games of the season, Cork are 14 points clear second placed Bray Wanderers and 15 ahead of a Dundalk side that have been the only the team to finish in front of them for the previous three seasons.

But Dundalk have been unable to truly get going and former Shelbourne midfielder Stuey is surprised at the extent of the struggles faced by Stephen Kenny's side this season.

"I have never remembered a league like this," said Stuey on Off The Ball in regards to the huge gap Cork have built so early in the season.

"I've been trying to think back and I just don't think anybody thought this was going to happen. Sure, I had a feeling that Dundalk would have to go through a bit of a transition.

"But it's more than that now. They're in an awful rut. I'm even thinking back to the Galway game a couple of weeks back when they conceded that late winner... the sheer devastation. It was the like reaction from a game at the end of a season. So obviously they're feeling something."

Stuey also looked at the way they are dealing with challenges coming their way.

"We should remember, Dundalk over the last three seasons have never really had to deal with injuries. They've always been the fittest team in the league, the most disciplined team in the league and never had to deal with injuries. But all of a sudden it's one issue after the next," he said.

"They got out-muscled against [Shamrock] Rovers. Rovers just put it up to them, got in their face and duly sort of came out on top."