The final round of League of Ireland Premier Division fixtures on Friday night sees three teams desperate to avoid falling through the trap door right at the very end.
St. Patrick’s Athletic, Sligo Rovers and Galway United are all still very much part of the relegation shake-up, and while the latter currently occupy that dreaded 10th place in the table and are three points behind their rivals, write off Shane Keegan’s side at your peril.
For a situation that involves three teams and could yet come down to goal difference the permutations are remarkably straightforward – but let’s go through it anyway.
Who needs what to happen in order to stay up?
St. Patrick’s Athletic. (Pos: 8th Pts: 38 GD -7)
What needs to happen? Simply put, a draw at Maginn Park against Derry City will be enough to keep them up. In a season that saw them start so poorly and remain in and around the drop zone for much of the campaign, having their survival in their own hands has to count as a success given the season as a whole (especially after last week’s rousing 4-2 comeback win against champions Cork City).
Can they do it? They can, but it won’t be easy. Pat’s have the fourth worst away record in the league, while Derry have the fourth bast at home. In addition, Kenny Shiels’ side have not given up hope of toppling Shamrock Rovers in third place despite last week’s 3-0 defeat in Sligo. The previous fixture between these two in Buncrana back in April ended in a 2-2 draw – a repeat of that would do nicely for Liam Buckley and his men.
9. Sligo Rovers (Pos: 9th Pts: 38 GD -11)
What needs to happen? It’s a similar story as St. Pat’s for Sligo Rovers – one point guarantees safety.They come up against a Drogheda United side still smarting from relegation, but one whose victory at Finn Park on Monday night might have given them a late surge of confidence. One gets the sense that had Gerard Lyttle been at the Showgrounds from the start, this season could have panned out very differently for them.
Can they do it? They can, and logic suggests they will. Drogheda have lost all of their last seven home matches in the league and with Sligo in the form that they’re in (only Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers have picked up more points in the last eight games), an away victory will be on the cards if Sligo play with the same freedom confidence as they did against Derry City last weekend.
10. Galway United (Pos: 10th Pts: 35 GD: -4)
What needs to happen? As the only side in the mix whose fate is not directly in their hands, Galway United have, by default, the toughest task ahead of them. Their cause is not helped either by facing this season’s runners-up Dundalk, who will want to bow out on a high ahead of next weekend’s FAI Cup final. Only a win will do, and then it becomes a case of hoping one of the others slip up.
Can they do it? They can, and they’ll fully believe they can. Galway are something of an enigma in this league, unbeaten in their last five games (one defeat in eight) and yet in their last three matches, they have drawn all of them when they’ll probably feel they should have won them. The previous league encounter between these two at Eamonn Deacy Park ended in a late 2-1 win for Shane Keegan’s side – they’ll be hoping that Dundalk will be suitably distracted by next week’s match at the Aviva and capitalise. Even then, that’s still only half the battle.
On this week’s episode of the Mixer Irish football podcast, we speak to Cobh Ramblers manager Stephen Henderson about his thoughts on his side’s season and the future of League of Ireland football, and we look ahead to the final day Premier Division survival battle.