With just Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers remaining in Europe for this season, there is a full round of fixtures taking place in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division this weekend, while Derry City and Waterford FC are in fact in action twice this week as they face each other on Monday night at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium. Previewing what is a busy weekend of top-flight action for BarOneRacing.com is our League of Ireland expert Kieran Burke.
Aside from being a nasty fixture on and off the field at times this season, (particularly the 3-2 Derry win on April 5th when Colm Deasy saw red for a horror tackle on ex-Harps defender Ciaran Coll) this is a derby contest that Derry City have owned, winning all four head to head ties with Finn Harps this year (2 league wins, 1 league cup win after extra-time and a pre-season “friendly”). Declan Devine’s “Candystripes” seemed to send out a real message of dominance in the most recent league meeting between the local rivals on May 24th when the hosts hit Harps for four, as Ciaran Harkin bagged a hat-trick in the 4-0 victory.
Derry dominance aside, Finn Harps should come into this home tie with a small degree of confidence after their surprise 1-0 victory away to Waterford FC live on Eir Sport last Friday. Harps supporters will be hoping the Eir Sport cameras can prove to be something of a lucky charm with this Friday’s game also televised. Ex-Sligo striker Mikey Place bagged the winner last week and Ollie Horgan will need his attacking players to start stepping up to the plate if the Donegal outfit are to win their battle to avoid the drop back to the First Division. Nathan Boyle and Mikey Place are Harps joint top scorers this term with just four goals apiece with last season’s play-off winners only above UCD at the bottom on goal difference (just three goals separate last season’s two promoted sides at the bottom, although UCD have a game in hand).
Believe it or not, Finn Harps are currently going through one of their better spells of the season, claiming 7 points from their last 4 league matches (2 wins, 1 draw). Finn Harps are also unbeaten in their last 2 home league matches having drawn 0-0 with Cork City a week after putting locals rivals Sligo to the sword at Finn Park (2-0). Last weeks win on the road against Waterford came as a big surprise despite the “Blues” troubles this season and should give Horgan and co confidence of picking up some sort of result against European hopefuls Derry.
However, that Harps form looks insignificant when compared to their neighbors unbeaten run of 8 matches in all competitions with the “Candystripes” last defeat an extremely unlucky one on May 21st away to St.Patrick’s Athletic (1-0). Off the back of such a run of results, City are just 5 points off the automatic European qualification place (3rd) and have a game in hand of the side currently occupying it, who are Bohemians.
With such a strong record in this derby combined with that unbeaten run, Declan Devine and his players should be and will be considered heavy favorites ahead of Friday’s latest encounter with Finn Harps in Ballybofey.
With an aggregate scoreline of 12-3 in favor of Derry City in the head to head stakes against Finn Harps so far this season, Derry City will not fear what is always a hostile welcome at Finn Park and should win this quite easily in their quest for European football next season. In all honesty, Derry to win @4/6 looks very generous value, even away from home, and should be considered for inclusion in your latest football ACCA but if your’e looking for a single selection at greater odds then Derry City -1 @9/5 is advised.
It’s been a crazy for weeks for UCD AFC, from losing star players to Premier Division rivals, to the chaos surrounding their victory over Bohemians and most recently a 7-0 defeat to Shamrock Rovers, you just never know what’s coming next from Collie O’Neill and his young “Students”. Gifted an extra two goals, which could have proved very valuable in the goal difference stakes thanks to Bohemians fielding an ineligible player in their 1-0 defeat at the UCD Bowl recently (result was upgraded to a 3-0 victory for UCD) that welcome bonus was soon thrown out the window as Shamrock Rovers hammered the relegation candidates last Sunday at the Tallaght Stadium. It should be noted that UCD were without their star ‘keeper Conor Kearns, due to his antics in the celebrations after defeating “Bohs”, but that’s a thin excuse for such a damaging result in terms of goal difference and overall confidence.
Confidence isn’t exactly a commodity high in circulation at the RSC either this season with the wheels well and truly coming off the “Blues”, who finished in the European placings last season. No need to recap the entire off-field episode regarding Waterford’s non-appearance in the Europa League this season but it’s fair to say domestically it’s been a total disaster for Alan Reynolds, who now has major question marks over his future in the RSC hot-seat.
Waterford sit just 7 points above the bottom two and while any question of a relegation dog-fight seems unlikely, defeat here could at least start such a debate.
Prior to last Sunday’s humiliation away to Europa League hopefuls Shamrock Rovers, UCD had in fact won 2 of their last 3 league matches, drawing the other away to Derry City in what was a major upset, as were the “Students” wins over Finn Harps and particularly their controversial win over Bohemians.
With Waterford win-less in their last 5 league outings, it could almost be argued that UCD are in fact that form side ahead of the “Blues” trip to the Capital on Friday night.
In terms of H2H meetings this term, both sides have tasted victory over one another, although UCD’s 4-1 win at the Bowl in April was extremely impressive and gives them the edge in terms of aggregate as the “Blues” scrapped a 1-0 triumph at the RSC in May.
There seems to be a greater sense of team spirit around the UCD locker room than their Waterford rivals, who have gone from the promised riches of European qualification last season to a domestic campaign that has been dead in the water for quite a while now. With UCD embroiled in an epic battle with Finn Harps to avoid the drop, there is far more riding on this result for Collie O’Neill and his players and that may play a role in giving UCD an edge of Waterford in the determination stakes.
With very public whispers regarding Alan Reynold’s future at Waterford taking place, UCD are given the slightest of slight nods @9/2 for Friday night, but I certainly wouldn’t be including this game in any kind of accumulator.
As someone who attended Wednesday nights epic Champions League qualifier at Oriel Park involving Dundalk and Qarabag, I can attest to just how physically draining of a contest the second round qualifier first leg was. As expected, Qarabag were a major step up on FC Riga and Dundalk could have been in major bother by half-time (Dundalk trailed 1-0 at the break, conceding after just 4 minutes). However, whatever Vinny Perth said to his players at half-time worked as the “Lilywhites” caused a mini-earthquake in County Louth with a well deserved equaliser in what was a truly superb second half showing from the League of Ireland champions.
In fact, Dundalk had multiple chances to win the first leg late on but Pat Hoban’s header will have to do for now as the “Town” travel to Azerbaijan for the second-leg. Before that though, last season’s double winners must return to domestic duties with a trip to Richmond Park on Saturday.
Dundalk are unbeaten in 16 domestic matches and will not fear facing an out of form St.Pat’s side on Saturday, even if it means playing a second string eleven ahead of jetting off to Azerbaijan on Monday.
St.Pat’s bowed out of Europe last week, going down 4-1 on aggregate to Swedish opposition but it is the “Saints” league showings that have disappointed Pat’s followers this season. Despite huge investment in the off-season, St.Pat’s sit 8 points behind their part-time Dublin rivals Bohemians and will need to have an extremely strong finish to the campaign if they are to have any hopes of qualifying for Europe next season.
A 3-0 defeat at Dalymount Park last time out was not well received by Pat’s fans and as a result, Harry Kenny is a manger under pressure in what is his first season in the job.
The likelihood is Dundalk boss Vinny Perth will ring the changes to extreme effect in order to save his “Lilywhite” stars for Wednesday’s do or die second leg in Azerbaijan. However, the champions are perhaps the only side in Ireland who have at least two players for every position on the pitch with the so called back up players of just as high of quality as the first-team regulars.
Likely to be backed by a large traveling support in a ground where the home supporters have often got on their own teams back this season, I fully expect a second string Dundalk side to pick up three crucial points in Inchicore on Saturday.
Georgie Kelly to score first (5/1) and Dundalk to win (4/6) with the later being included in your weekend footie ACCA. *Click here for full betting on the game*
Sligo are one of those sides currently stuck in limbo in the top flight with ten league games remaining. 19 points behind third place Bohemians (3rd guarantees European football next season, 4th place only secures Europe depending on the FAI Cup winner) and 14 points above the bottom two, the “Bit O’Reds” Premier Division campaign is something of nothing at the moment in all honesty. Battling against relegation in recent season, Liam Buckley has steadied the ship slightly at Sligo this term but question marks remain over the direction Sligo are taking as a club at present.
The opposite goes for Bohemians who have been the best of the rest this term. Sitting pretty in 3rd behind the brilliant duo of Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk, Keith Long is most certainly a manager of the year contender given what he has achieved with part-time “Bohs” in a league dominated by the professional powers.
However, with Derry City sneaking up on the “Gypsies” in the race for Europe, an away win is of crucial importance for the Dubliners here.
In terms of the H2H stakes, both sides have claimed a victory over one another (Bohs 2-0, Sligo 2-1) with the away team claiming the 3 points on both occasions. Backing up Bohemians claims for being the “best of the rest”, Keith Long’s charges hold the third best away record in the Premier Division with 6 wins from 13 away games (P13, W6, D3, L4). Meanwhile, only 4 side have weaker home records than Sligo Rovers, who have only won 4 times at the Showgrounds this season (P13, W4, D6, L3).
Despite the loss of key marksman Dinny Corcoran to injury in the most previous meeting of these two sides, Ryan Swan has filled the void brilliantly and has found his scoring touch in recent weeks. While Jamaican international Romeo Parkes has been a fine addition in terms of the scoring stakes for Sligo Rovers this season, the “Bit O’Red” have struggled for goals in 2019, registering just 25 goals in 26 league outings.
As a result, confidence looks to be on the side of the visitors once again in this fixture with Bohemians to win (11/10) & Ryan Swan anytime goalscorer (11/5) the recommendations for Saturday’s live match.
Cork City’s issues this season have been well documented and Shamrock Rovers demonstrated the “Rebel’s” vulnerability early on in the campaign with a comfortable 3-1 victory at what was previously “fortress” Turners Cross. The “Hoops” followed that win over their old foes up with another comfortable 2-0 victory at Tallaght in May and should face little or no problem in repeating such a result on Sunday.
In saying that, Stephen Bradley will have to be careful not to over rotate his squad, even with next Thursday’s trip to Cyprus in mind, while striker Graham Cummins will be unavailable for the clash given he is on loan from Cork City.
A stunning performance from the “Hoops” at Tallaght on Thursday night has been the talk of the town as Bradley’s boys sent Apollon Limassol back to Cyprus with a 2-1 defeat. Jack Byrne was instrumental yet again in Rovers latest success and should he play at the Cross on Sunday that should be more than enough to separate the sides, even with Rovers fielding a lesser eleven.
Cork City sit just 9 points clear of the bottom two and seem to be going from crisis to crisis both on and off the field this season.
*Odds correct at time of publishing*
*Always gamble responsibly, see Dunlewey.net*