It’s back to normality this weekend following a month of European heroics as well as heartbreaks.
Any dreams of qualifying for the Europa or Champions League group stages are now non-existent, but with league action set to return to a normal pattern, we can look forward to an autumn which still leaves us with much yet to be decided.
Last weekend’s results went some way to ensuring this, as Cork City drew 1-1 away to Dundalk in Oriel Park to keep things at the top interesting, with just six points still separating the Lilywhites and the Leesiders.
At the opposite end, defeats for Derry and Sligo mean that Limerick are still in with a distant chance of keeping their Premier Division status, despite a hefty 4-1 defeat at the hands of Shamrock Rovers last time out.
Elsewhere, St. Pat’s and Rovers – both on 40 points apiece – have narrowed the gap between themselves and Cork City to just five points. Bohemians form the remainder of the top five with a healthy 14-point gap separating them and sixth-placed Longford Town.
Five games are to take place tonight while Limerick and Sligo wrap up the weekend’s Premier Division action tomorrow night.
After a much-needed week of rest for some of the league’s top sides, we now edge closer to the business end of the season.
Friday, July 31
Cork City vs Bohemians (kick-off: 8pm) – televised on Setanta Sports
Having won every league game since May 22, Cork City were finally halted by their arch rivals, Dundalk, last Sunday evening. A game filled with as much competitiveness and contentiousness, due to two penalty calls. The league’s top two sides eventually ended up playing out a 1-1 draw.
The result keeps Cork City in the hunt but it also means that much more importance may now be placed on the second last game of the campaign when the Lilywhites head to Turner’s Cross. Matters are now out of City’s hands, and should Dundalk not be stopped between now and the end of the season – which is a very real possibility – they could be champions by the time that game rolls around.
Bohs would have been expected to beat their lowly opponents – Sligo and Derry – in their last two games but they now face an entirely different challenge in an effort to keep pressure on the Hoops and Pat’s above them.
One can’t see John Caulfield’s men picking up anything other than three points, despite Bohs being only one of a handful of teams which have held the Leesiders to a draw this season.
Cork City 1-0 Bohemians
Derry City vs Longford Town (kick-off: 7:45pm)
These are two sides which find themselves at the top and bottom of what is becoming a mini league of its own within the Premier Division.
Longford trail Bohs by 14 points in fifth while Derry remain on 16 points, level with Sligo, and 10 above Limerick.
Longford will be massive favourites to pick up a win here, if the Candystripes’ atrocious form is anything to go by. They’ve extended their already abysmal record of zero wins since before the beginning of May to 12 games now.
With a trip to Galway followed by a home game against Dundalk, things don’t look good for Derry. They will hope that this week’s appointment of Paul Hegarty, who worked under now-Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny at the Brandywell, as assistant manager can have some sort of positive effect.
Derry City 1-2 Longford Town
Drogheda United vs Shamrock Rovers (kick-off: 7:45pm)
The Drogs welcome Shamrock Rovers to Louth having halted a three-game losing streak last weekend against Longford.
On the other hand, Rovers will be buoyed by a comprehensive 4-1 win over Limerick in Tallaght last Sunday. This continues the Hoops’ positive trend of high-scoring wins after beating Sligo and Derry 5-1 and 4-1 respectively in June.
The Tallaght club have successfully been able to merge this with their fantastic defence, which has leaked just 13 goals all year. The only side to outdo this is Cork City, who’ve conceded eleven.
Drogheda United 0-1 Shamrock Rovers
Bray Wanderers vs Dundalk (kick-off: 7:45pm)
Last weekend’s result against Cork City will have benefitted the Lilywhites more than their southern opponents. They now know if they can hang on for the next ten or eleven games, they could potentially make the penultimate game of the season in Turner’s Cross null and void in terms of a title-defining showdown.
European action has not dented their league form one bit either. The only blot on their copy – a 2-1 defeat to Bohs – has been followed up with four wins on the trot along with last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Caulfield’s men.
Bray have hit a purple patch, however, and if there was ever a time for Stephen Kenny’s men to be wary of Bray it would be this weekend.
The Seagulls have won four games on the bounce now, particularly impressive when one considers how many managers this side has been through this season, along with the fact they only managed to pick up three points on five occasions last year.
Bray Wanderers 0-2 Dundalk
St. Patrick’s Athletic vs Galway United (kick-off 7:45pm)
Galway have one of the most daunting tasks of the weekend, with a trip to Richmond Park looking like a perilous journey.
Pat’s have picked up six wins from six in the league, with their last home defeat being traced back to May when they succumbed to Dundalk.
Galway are a difficult side to predict, however they’ve now lost two in a row, being beaten by Dundalk and Bray in their most recent games.
Pat’s need to win here to put pressure on Cork City above them.
St. Patrick’s Athletic 3-1 Galway United
Saturday, August 1
Limerick vs Sligo Rovers (kick-off: 6:30pm)
It’s last versus second last in the final Premier Division game of the weekend, as Limerick welcome Sligo to Markets Field.
The last times these sides met it was a closely fought draw with Limerick just claiming a point with a last-minute Paul O’Conor goal giving the visitors their fifth point of the season.
What is worrying is that Limerick have only been able to pick up one more point since that game back on the 2nd of May.
Neither of these sides have done enough to escape where they find themselves this season and another draw wouldn’t come as a surprise.
Limerick 0-0 Sligo Rovers
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena