Shamrock Rovers v Derry City (Premier Division)
It’s the biggest game of the season so far and there’s a feeling go into it that the stars may just be starting to align in favour of Shamrock Rovers. If you read last week’s previews, you’ll remember Rovers boss Stephen Bradley was in talks with Lincoln City about their manager’s position but ahead of the Hoops home game against Finn Harps on Friday, the club released a statement saying Bradley had committed to staying with the Champions and the boost that gave the clubs board, supporters and players was evident as they put on a stellar performance in a 3-1 win over Harps (it could have been double digits).
Another convincing home win over Sligo Rovers on Monday, combined with Derry failing to win their two matches over the weekend, sees the Hoops arrive into this title six-pointer top of the table for the first time in a few months.
As mentioned, Derry City will have been frustrated to take just two points from two games in recent days but they simply didn’t create enough genuine chances for all the possession they enjoyed. Another injury to key creative midfielder Patrick McEleney on Monday is a huge blow to Ruaidhri Higgins who is still without arguably the league’s best player in Michael Duffy. As I said at the top of the preview, there’s a feeling things are just starting to fall the way of the Champions.
Rovers will also be itching to serve out revenge for Derry’s dramatic late win over them at the Brandywell earlier this season and with the Hoops recording 7 wins and 1 draw from their 8 home matches this season (the best record in the division), I fancy them to right that earlier wrong and claim a big three points towards a third title on the spin.
HOT STAT: Shamrock Rovers are unbeaten in 11 games and have won 7 of their last 8.
Dundalk v Bohemians (Premier Division)
Having been 2-0 up away to the league’s bottom side on Friday night, Dundalk somehow found a way to implode and find themselves in a position where they were lucky to leave UCD with a point in the end. A mindless two-footed lunge and a straight red card for former UCD defender Andy Boyle against his old side was a huge turning point in the game and the Lilywhites will be without the veteran centre-half for the visit of Bohemians on Friday, and with Bohemians scoring in every game this term, bar a 1-0 Dublin derby defeat against Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk could certainly have done without Boyle’s absence here.
Astonishingly, Dundalk are still without a win on the road this season, only UCD have a worse record away from home. However, in front of their own fans Dundalk are a totally different animal with only the current league leaders Shamrock Rovers boasting a better home record. Dundalk have drawn a blank in five of their first 14 matches but all of those games in which they failed to score have come away from Oriel Park.
With Bohs striker Promise Omochere in good form (two goals in his last two) and Dundalk needing a response to Friday’s capitulation in Dublin, this should be a good watch with plenty of chances at both ends.
HOT STAT: Both teams have scored in the last 5 H2H’s (including a pre-season friendly).
Shelbourne v Drogheda United (Premier Division)
You so often see it in Horse Racing, an out-of-form horse on a long losing streak eventually wins a race and then immediately follows up next time out. On Friday, Shelbourne finally broke their duck in front of their home fans with a resounding 2-1 win against Sligo Rovers at Tolka Park. The Reds, who have so often been goal-shy this season, delivered what was undoubtedly their best-attacking performance under the management team of Damien Duff and Joey O’Brien, and only for the sensational display of Sligo keeper’ Ed McGinty, it could have been five or six for the Drumcondra outfit.
Shels now find themselves with a great opportunity to follow up and record back-to-back wins for the first time this season as an out-of-form Drogheda United roll into town. After a solid start to the campaign under former Shelbourne boss Kevin Doherty, the County Louth side have suffered three straight defeats and have shipped three or more goals in each of those three matches.
With Shelbourne now two points clear of Friday’s visitors, this is a real chance to put some daylight between themselves and the bottom three. Sean Boyd grabbed his fourth goal in twelve matches for Shels in the game against Sligo and he’ll still be wondering how he didn’t have more on the night, he could be worth a look in terms of a goalscorer bet here while it was fantastic to see Jack Moylan finally finding the net after a string of impressive performances in a struggling Shels side so far this season.
The former Bohemians midfielder is the x-factor in what is otherwise a fairly workmanlike Shelbourne midfield and if he can start going on a run of creating goals and assists then it will aid massively in the Reds quest to score more goals after a slow start.
Shelbourne beat Drogheda 2-0 in their place earlier in the year and having won their last three H2H’s against the Drogs, I fancy them to keep this mini-run of form going.
Wexford FC v Galway United (Division 1)
It was late heartbreak for Wexford in Longford last Friday as De Town found a way to score a 94th-minute winner from a set-piece to sink a Wexford side who just moments earlier had rattled the woodwork down the opposite end. It would have been some story too as it was ex-Longford man Aaron Dobbs who took a coating of paint off the upright before the home side counter-attacked leading to a desperate late lunge from Lorcan Fitzgerald who saw red as a result. The resulting free-kick was headed home by Sam Verdon and Wexford went home empty-handed as a result.
Jack Doherty opened the scoring inside the first sixty-seconds after running directly at the Longford back four from the kick-off, he drew a free-kick which he duly slotted away in world-class fashion. It was probably Longford’s poorest opening twenty minutes of the season and Wexford really should have made hay while the sun was shining and put the game to bed but they allowed Longford back in and a goalkeeper mistake saw the hosts equalise before going on to win the game late on.
So, there were plenty of positives to take from the game for Wexford boss Ian Ryan and he’ll be hoping his team can take something from title challengers Galway just as they did when they headed West earlier in the season. A late Stephen Walsh goal that night also broke Wexford hearts in a 1-1 draw.
Despite question marks over their style of play this season, Galway United are on a remarkable run of form with the Tribesmen winning five on the spin. John Caulfield’s side have been scoring freely as well with Galway registering two or more goals in their last four matches.
Only the bottom two teams in the division have conceded more goals than Wexford but the South-East side have scored more goals than the two teams sitting directly ahead of them in the table so we should be on for a goal-fest at Ferrycarrig Park on Friday night!
Waterford v Cobh Ramblers (Division 1)
Despite not having a manager for roughly a month now, Waterford FC are ticking along nicely with the Blues winning three on the spin to move themselves up to third in the First Division standings.
This game is one of many Munster Derbies which are very prevalent in the second-tier of Irish football this season but in truth, this should be a fairly straightforward task for Waterford with Friday’s visitors to the RSC pretty much out of contention for anything of note after just a quarter of the season. Cobh Ramblers sit second from bottom and their only two wins have been hard-fought successes over the league’s bottom team Athlone Town.
The Rams have scored just 13 goals in 13 games (6 of those v Athlone) and have conceded an incredible 29 times, that’s the second-worst defensive record in the league after Athlone.
Waterford have scored almost double that tally and having put four past them at St.Colmans Park just a few weeks ago, as long as complacency isn’t an issue, they should be putting Cobh to the sword with relative ease here. Given Waterford recently had a scare at home to Athlone, I’d be hoping that has given them a bit of a kick up the backside in terms of attitude towards these kinds of games and I’ll be backing them for a convincing home win here.
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