In an unusual set of circumstances, the Premier Division action returns following a a shock loss for Dundalk, which means the title race now has a completely different complexion.
Bohemians’ 1-2 victory at Oriel Park last weekend means that Cork City and Shamrock Rovers will possess a renewed sense of positivity going into the mid-season break.
Below them, St. Pat’s and Bohs will still dream of causing an upset during the second half of the season, now ten points off the leaders, albeit with Stephen Kenny’s champions having a match to spare.
For those struggling at the other end, the break from play could come as a welcome relief and a chance to step back, analyse and go again.
Whatever happens this weekend, every player, on every team will want to go into the break celebrating a win and not pondering what could have been until June 26th, when the action returns.
Friday, June 12th
Bohemians vs Shamrock Rovers (kick-off 7:45pm)
The first derby of the season in Tallaght was a drab 0-0 draw but the Bohs and Rovers faithful will be hoping the importance of this game will ramp up the entertainment value this time around.
Bohs welcome Pat Fenlon’s side with confidence high having beaten the champions last weekend – the first club to do so this season. It doesn’t become any easier though, as Rovers are the only side now left in the league with an unbeaten record intact.
Although Bohs won against Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers have been more consistent throughout the first half of the season. Consistently going unbeaten comes at a price though as they have also failed to win more than two games in a row this year.
Tonight’s match-up presents them with an opportunity to beat that tally, having hammered both Sligo and Derry in their last two fixtures.
Bohemians 1-1 Shamrock Rovers
Cork City vs Bray Wanderers (kick-off 7:45pm)
Having played away from home for the last two weekends, both in the league and the FAI Cup, the Leesiders return to Turner’s Cross in a healthy position.
Bohs did John Caulfield’s men a massive favour by preventing what was Dundalk’s seemingly unstoppable winning run while goals from Dan Murray, Mark O’Sullivan and Garry Buckley helped the Rebel Army outdo former manager tommy Dunne in Galway and subsequently close the gap at the top to three points.
This is one of the easier games of the weekend to predict an outcome for, due to City’s great run at the moment of three wins in four games and Bray’s atrocious away form; they’ve picked up just five points on the road this season.
Cork City 3-0 Bray Wanderers
Drogheda United vs Derry City (kick-off 7:45pm)
In what has been a tough first half in general for the Drogs, optimism is beginning to sprout again at United Park. Three wins out of four in the league against Bray, Galway and Limerick, respectively, mean the mid-season break probably comes at the worst possible time for Johnny McDonnell’s men as they hope to build up some momentum.
They play Derry, who have not been able to manufacture quite the same kind form, losing five of their last seven fixtures, including last Monday’s drubbing at the hands of Shamrock Rovers.
A win here could put Drogheda into sixth during the break, depending on Longford’s result, while Derry could overtake the Louth men and Galway if fortune favours them.
Drogheda United 2-1 Derry City
St. Patrick’s Athletic vs Limerick (kick-off: 7:45pm)
Liam Buckley’s St. Pat’s are not quite out of it yet after last weekend’s events. They lie ten points off the chase but could not have asked for an easier opponent heading into the break.
Limerick could not mark their return to Markets Field with a victory last weekend, succumbing to Drogheda. This loss makes it four in a row now and their tenth overall this term.
The Shannonsiders come up against one of the most devastating sides in the league when they are on form, and with no disrespect to Limerick, even out of form they should have too much.
St. Patrick’s Athletic 2-0 Limerick
Sligo Rovers vs Dundalk (kick-off 7:45pm)
They’ve only had one blip all season, losing last weekend, but the Lilywhites will want to take a well-earned break having got back to winning ways.
Sligo represent a definite challenge but not one that should daunt a team that is six points clear at the top with a game in-hand.
The Bit O’ Red can look at this match in one of two ways; one that follows a game which illustrated a weakness in the Lilywhites’ armour or a match in which Dundalk will unleash a fearsome backlash.
Either way, this will be a massive challenge for Owen Heary’s men.
Sligo Rovers 0-2 Dundalk
Longford Town vs Galway United (kick-off 7:45pm)
Both newly-promoted clubs should be pleased with their lot at the halfway stage. It’s not easy to make an impact immediately in the Premier Division, even for two big regional clubs, but both have done so, particulalry Longford, who aren’t a million miles away from entering the top half.
Galway have been the side which have found it a little tougher, exemplified by the form respective teams come into this match in. Longford have won their last two games against Limerick and Bray whilst the Galwegians have lost their most recent encounters versus Cork City and Drogheda.
This is by no means a relegation six-pointer some may have thought it would be at the beginning of the year, but it is still an important game for bringing much-needed positivity into the second half of the season.
Longford Town 1-1 Galway United
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena
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