After a weekend of FAI Cup games, which now leaves just four teams in the competition, it’s time to turn our attentions back to League of Ireland Premier Division action.
The standout game from this round of matches has to be the Louth derby between double-chasing Dundalk and Drogheda United. The Lilywhites have avoided Cork City in the semi-finals, so there’s now every chance we could see the top two sparring for the FAI Cup come November.
The other major game up for decision concerns Limerick and Bray Wanderers. The Munster club, in particular, are still in a perilous position despite a massive turnaround while the FAI Cup semi-finalists know a win may push them just far enough ahead of the other bottom half sides to safety.
Elsewhere, Shamrock Rovers travel to Derry as the Tallaght club aim to cement a place in Europe for next season. The Candystripes have far less lofty ambitions as they still remain firmly in the relegation scrap.
Cork City and Sligo Rovers sit this weekend out with their respective fixtures against Galway United and St. Patrick’s Athletic being postponed due to Saturday evening’s EA Sports Cup final between the Tribesmen and Liam Buckley’s side.
Friday September 18
Dundalk vs Drogheda United (kick-off: 7:25pm)
The last instalment of this season’s Louth derby encompasses two clubs with differing ambitions for the final games of the season. Dundalk are still challenging for silverware on two fronts, the league and FAI Cup, whilst Drogheda’s hope will simply be to avoid the dreaded drop.
The Lilywhites have drawn twice now in their last two league games but last weekend’s FAI Cup demolition of Sligo Rovers should be the yardstick for Drogheda to focus on.
Although the first half was extremely tight, Dundalk were simply able to kick up another gear in order to make it past the Bit O’ Red.
With success in two competitions now within touching distance, Drogheda will need to be wary of a relentless push between now and the end of the campaign from Stephen Kenny’s men.
Dundalk have lost just one home game all season, conceding only nine goals in Oriel Park. This writer expects neither of those stats to be altered tonight.
Dundalk 3-0 Drogheda United
Bohemians vs Longford Town (kick-off: 7:45pm)
Despite being just two places apart in the table, a gaping chasm of 14 points separates both sides.
Both clubs also have just six games remaining to chase Europe and escape relegation worry respectively.
Bohs could theoretically catch St. Pat’s still, who reside seven points above their north-side neighbours while Longford may need another five or six points in their remaining games to avoid the danger of going down.
The Dalymount club need a lot of factors to go in their favour to claim a spot in Europe, not least the fact that one of Cork City and Dundalk would need to win the FAI Cup in order to pass an extra European spot to the fourth-placed club, but this shouldn’t dent Bohs’ endeavour as they still have something to strive for between now and the end of October.
Bohemians 2-1 Longford Town
Derry City vs Shamrock Rovers (kick-off: 7:45pm)
It’s been a far from ideal week of preparation for Derry in the build up to another crucial game for the lowly club.
Monday’s FAI Cup quarter-final replay defeat in Cork has now been coupled with the departure of manager Peter Hutton by mutual consent. Paul Hegarty is now tasked with guiding the club through an arduous final few games with relegation still an ever-present possibility.
Signs of positivity began to emerge at the Brandywell as August began but a spell between the end of April and the tail end of July without a league win has put the Candystripes in severe difficulty.
Shamrock Rovers have probably faltered below their own high standards this term but one final push for the line in their remaining matches should see them safely into Europe next year.
Derry City 0-1 Shamrock Rovers
Saturday September 19
Bray Wanderers vs Limerick (kick-off: 5:45pm)
The Shannonsiders make the journey north with confidence sky high following an extraordinary U-turn in fortunes, coupled with some outstanding, resilient displays.
Such was the plight of the team up until the beginning of August however, Limerick are still rooted to the bottom of the table.
No one, only Martin Russell, knows how this side has turned the tide but with three of their remaining six games being against sides within touching distance of them at present, who knows what could happen between now and the end of the season.
Bray are on the cusp of safety now and with games to come against Sligo and Derry in the next couple of weeks, albeit with a visit to Shamrock Rovers before those matches, a win here could go a long way to a stress free end to the season for the Seagulls, who will still be buzzing from their FAI Cup quarter-final triumph.
Bray Wanderers 0-2 Limerick
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena