It’s back to league action for all clubs this weekend as European attentions are put to one side for the season. Here we look ahead to each of the six games to be played over the course of the weekend.
Dundalk were outdone by BATE Borisov in their second leg tie this week while Shamrock Rovers and UCD were sent crashing out of the Europa League by Odds BK and Slovan Bratislava respectively.
Last weekend’s league games provided drama and tension, particularly in the extremely close-fought matches between Derry and Limerick, where it finished scoreless as well Bohemians and Sligo Rovers, which ended in Bohs just pulling through on a scoreline of 1-0.
Cork City have closed the gap on Dundalk to a much more catchable six points following their 4-1 away win over Longford Town. Both City and Dundalk have now also played the same number of games and face each other this Sunday due to the Lilywhites’ European exit.
St. Patrick’s Athletic also took advantage of European absence with Shamrock Rovers’ game against Bray being postponed. Although the Hoops have a game in hand on St. Pat’s, Liam Buckley’s side stay ahead of Rovers on goals scored for the time being.
It’s been a long week for some but there’s no escape from domestic action as we continue to enjoy some fascinating matches amid the busiest period of the League of Ireland campaign.
Friday, July 24
Bohemians vs Derry City (kick-off: 7:45pm)
Bohemians play their second home game in two weeks as the Candystripes make the journey south to Dublin. After last weekend’s narrow 1-0 win over Sligo, Bohs should have a lot more confidence in facing Derry, having stopped a two-game losing streak.
Bohs will look to win six points from a possible six here with a difficult trip to Cork up next weekend. They will also hope Ismahil Akinade’s decisive strike against Sligo can be the beginning of a run of goals for the 21-year-old, having played five games without being able to manufacture a goal.
Derry hit the road still in search of their first three points since the latter half of April. Facing Limerick last weekend was a great chance for the Candystripes to keep up with the group of mid-table clubs ahead of them.
However, relegation is now a very real threat for Derry, who will desperately need to pick up points in their next three games, including tonight’s match-up as well as fixtures versus Longford and Galway.
Bohemians 2-0 Derry City
Galway United vs Bray Wanderers (kick-off: 7:45pm)
Galway versus Bray is not going to set the league alight this weekend in terms of the importance of the fixture but none the less it affords the Seagulls a chance of potentially moving from ninth to sixth, depending on results elsewhere, if they can steal three points at Eamonn Deacy Park.
Galway themselves will have ambitions of breaking away from the tightly packed mid-table with four clubs no more than two points apart. If Bohs fail to replicate what they did last weekend, then a win for Galway here would have the Dubliners looking over their shoulder, who reside in fifth at present.
Bray are the in-form side of the two approaching this game, having won their three previous league games while the Tribesmen’s form makes for a much more mixed bag. A draw against Sligo at the beginning of the month was followed by a 4-2 loss to Dundalk and then a victory on the same scoreline against Limerick.
At home the onus will be on the Connacht side to come out on top.
Galway United 1-1 Bray Wanderers
Sligo Rovers vs St. Patrick’s Athletic (kick-off: 8pm)
St. Pat’s travel to Sligo in search of their sixth win in as many games whilst Sligo hope to lift themselves from a worrying 11th place.
Pat’s still remain within a distant chance of challenging for the title, sitting 13 points off Dundalk and just another seven behind Cork City. This, combined with the motivation to try their hand in Europe again next year will only increase the will to win within Liam Buckley’s squad.
Their disappointments in Europe may become a blessing as we inch towards August with a more steady schedule making for more energetic performances.
And energy is what the Saints will need for their visit to The Showgrounds, albeit with Sligo hovering precariously over basement side Limerick.
Sligo Rovers 0-2 St. Patrick’s Athletic
Saturday, July 25
Longford Town vs Drogheda United (kick-off: 7:30pm)
Longford have earned a reputation as one the league’s most up and down sides, most notably in recent weeks in which they’ve commanded brilliant wins against the likes of Limerick, Bray and Bohs before losing to what some would deem beatable opposition such as Galway and Sligo.
They face Drogheda, who aren’t exactly prime examples of consistency either. However, boss Johnny McDonnell knows that his side need to turn things around quickly and recreate their form from the month of June, when they went unbeaten.
Two losses to Premier Division heavyweights Dundalk and St. Patrick’s Athletic since should not make Drogs heads drop but they still need to pick themselves up quickly.
Expect a close game in Longford with just one goal likely to separate the sides.
Longford Town 2-1 Drogheda United
Sunday, July 26
Shamrock Rovers vs Limerick (kick-off: 4pm)
Rovers return to league action against lowly opposition Limerick, who still march on in their quest for the sweet relief of three points.
The Shannonsiders’ draw away to Derry was a commendable result and means that both the Candystripes, along with Sligo are still within touching distance if some sort of second-half-of-the-season turnaround can be mounted.
Another away trip, this time to south Dublin, provides no reprieve from the excursions of league action and it is hard to see anything other than a home win.
Although league action has not been to the forefront of Rovers’ concerns of late, the fact they’re so watertight at the back, with just 12 goals conceded all season, means anyone who enters Tallaght Stadium knows it will be a huge task to break their resolve.
Shamrock Rovers 3-0 Limerick
Dundalk vs Cork City (kick-off: 6pm)
One of the biggest games of the season is to take place this Sunday following Dundalk’s exit from Europe. It will be the two-thirds stage of the battle, which will be played out between the league’s top two sides this year, with Dundalk still to come to Turner’s Cross on the second last day of the season.
Dundalk have already gained the upper hand over Cork City away from home, so they will want to drive home their dominance on Sunday night in front of their adoring fans.
Both side’s mentality around this match-up is unique in that they’re both still very much vying for the title while the Lilywhites’ victory over Cork City at Turner’s Cross was the only league defeat the Leesiders have encountered thus far.
On their home patch, it’s difficult to see anything but lightening striking twice. It’s crucial City halt Dundalk’s progress here, however, as five defeats in the league in succession, if last season is included, would be a psychological hammer blow.
Dundalk 2-1 Cork City
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena