Meanwhile, there was a significant result at the bottom of the table last Saturday, as Bray Wanderers recorded a 1-0 home win over fellow strugglers Sligo.
Cork City versus St Patrick’s Athletic, scheduled for tonight, has been postponed due to Cork’s tie with KR Reykjavík last night. The hype of the big European games during the week may have caught the headlines this week, but those in league action over the coming days will know that they must keep the head down and deliver results, piling pressure on Cork City and Shamrock Rovers when they return to their domestic fixtures. Derry City and St Pat’s are those who are also not in action this week.
This time of year is the real litmus test for potential champions. Those with European schedules must find the right balance with their league commitments. If they are unsuccessful, fighting on all fronts may ultimately lead to succeeding on none.
Friday July 3rd:
8.05pm: Drogheda United v Dundalk
Drogs scored an impressive win against Bohemians at Dalymount last week, and Johnny McDonnell’s side will be full of confidence that they can find a result at home to the league leaders. The manner in which they grabbed a late winner in a tie where few gave them a chance will garner the side, and offer some much needed belief ahead of this evening’s mammoth challenge.
Dundalk hit the ground running after the break, with a dominant 6-2 home victory over the league’s basement club, Limerick. The Lily Whites’ tie with Baté in the Champions League qualifiers is not for two weeks, and Dundalk will hope that their rivals’ involvement in Europe in the interim will hinder any potential challengers for the league title.
Stephen Kenny’s side are three points clear of Cork City with a game in hand at the top of the table, and with the Rebels not playing this week, Dundalk have the chance to extend the advantage to six.
But this is easier said than done, and a local Louth derby is always going to be difficult to call. However, despite some impressive form from Drogs, Dundalk seem to have too much quality, and should be able to dig deep and find a win.
Saturday July 4th:
6.30pm: Limerick FC v Bray Wanderers
Bray will be looking to build on momentum, and will see an away win to Limerick as a real possibility. Having clinched a vital three points against Sligo, the Seagulls now face Limerick, who are nine points behind the Wicklow side.
Limerick’s few comforts this season have come at home, and having been demolished at Dundalk last week, will know it can only go up from here. On paper, this is one of the easiest fixtures of their season, so if Martin Russell’s side are to pick up points, it must be here.
Momentum is important, and picking up points is vital for both sides. Bray’s virtually perennial flirtation with the drop ensures that they are battle-hardened for such big games, and should have enough to defeat their hosts.
Prediction: Bray Wanderers
7.30pm: Longford v Bohemians
Bohs were rocked last week by the home loss to Drogheda, while Longford also suffered a major setback in a 3-0 loss at the hands of St Pat’s.
The break ultimately hindered Bohs, halting an impressive run of form. Keith Long’s side now find themselves 13 points adrift at the top of the table, and any hopes of a title challenge are all but gone. But there are European spots to be fought for, and Europa League action at Dalymount Park next season remains very much a realistic goal.
Longford meanwhile have lost two league games in a row, and De Town need a result here to get their season back on track. Tony Cousins will know his side are capable of pulling off the result, drawing inspiration from Drogs last week.
With both teams coming off the back of a loss, this one is difficult to call. But it could be argued that Bohs suffered the less damning loss last week, and perhaps put down to ill preparation following the break. The Dublin side will be looking to bounce back this week, making a statement on the road.
7.45pm: Sligo Rovers v Galway United
The Bit o’ Red suffered a major set-back to their already disappointing season, falling 1-0 to Bray, which leaves them second from bottom in the table. It is difficult to see where they can go from here, with survival well and truly now the priority. But with a home tie against Galway United, Sligo will know that it is vital that they pick up one point at the very least at home against the Westerners.
Galway meanwhile battled hard against Shamrock Rovers last week, before ultimately falling short in a 2-1 loss. Currently at 8th in the table, they will be eager to pick up points to push on and put real daylight between themselves and those behind them.
This is another tie where both sides are coming into the game following defeats. With both sides in the bottom half of the table, it will likely be a tense affair.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.