Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny has told his players that they can win the Airtricity Premier Division title this season.

The Lilywhites have been the surprise of the season, possessing the best away record in the league with wins over Sligo Rovers, St Patrick's Athletic and last week against Derry City.

Dundalk trail Pat's by just six points with 14 games left in the season.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport, Kenny said: "We’re in a great position, and I think the thing that’s been really pleasing has been the rate of improvement of the players.

"We were 12 points behind Sligo and now we’re down to two points.

"You can see the players progressing every week, getting better, and the squad has shown a lot of character.

"When we went to The Brandywell at the weekend, our two most experienced players, Stephen O’Donnell and Mark Rossiter, were missing.

"Keith Ward did his cruciate, he has been our playmaker, John Mountney has been important, he was out, and we lost Chris Shields in the game.

"We still managed to get a result. That speaks volumes for the players themselves."

Kenny has challenged his players to put themselves firmly in the race in the next few weeks.

"With the rate of improvement, the players should be thinking now they can go on and really challenge for this league. That’s the way the players should be thinking now.

"It has never happened that a team has come from bottom of the league one year to go on and win it the next. History suggests that it won’t happen or it can’t happen, but I don’t agree with that.

"I think the players should now believe that they can go on a run of winning matches and see where it takes them.

"Because it’s such a competitive league this year, I think everyone is going to beat everyone. If we can keep in contention with three or four games to go, I’m sure the top five all feel they can do that, and we feel no different."

The Dundalk boss was sacked by Shamrock Rovers last year six months into his contract with the Hoops.

Kenny responded to a question from pundit Pat Dolan about if there was a personal satisfaction for being ahead of Rovers in the league this year, saying "people will think that", but that he was not interested in scoring points over his former employer. 

Kenny earlier said he was “very disappointed” by the decision to remove him from his position

The Dundalk boss said: "I didn't agree with it at all. Six months is no time, absolutely nothing. I only lost four league games in the season there. When the decision was made we had won seven and drawn two of the previous nine games.

"Subsequently when they appointed Brian Laws, they lost four out of the next six, went out of the FAI Cup and lost the League Cup final and went out of Europe. I didn’t agree with the decision, but I have to live with that.

"No matter what I say, it’s a black mark on my career and I have to live with that. Some of the signings I made didn’t enhance the squad the way I would have wanted them to. But I had no problem with the squad at all, they were a good group to work with.

"We were never going to catch Sligo because they had such a season last season; they won the league only losing one game.

"But we were in the quarter-finals of the FAI Cup and in the League Cup final. We had a chance to win two trophies when that decision was made.

"But there’s nothing I can do about that now. That’s in the past. Everyone has to move on."