While plenty of attention has been focused on the cup competitions of late with Dundalk securing the first silverware of the season in the league cup final on Saturday and Bohemians defeating Crumlin to set up a mouth-watering Dublin derby FAI Cup semi-final with Shamrock Rovers, the spotlight on the Premier Division returns on Friday night with a full schedule of five matches taking place.
- Catch Kieran Burke’s audio preview ahead of tonight’s LOI action.
Cork City v Finn Harps, 7.45pm.
Without as much as a point since being appointed Cork City boss, the pressure is now on ex-Longford manager Neale Fenn to guide his Rebels to a crucial home win against relegation rivals Finn Harps. To even type out such a sentence is unbelievable given the level Cork City have been operating off in recent years but history counts for nothing on Friday night as a win for the visitors would reduce the gap between Harps and Cork to just 4 points.
Ollie Horgan’s Harps would have probably taken an end of season relegation play-off had you offered it the way of the newly promoted side in pre-season but given Cork’s struggles of late perhaps the Donegal club can avoid such an inconvenience.
- Listen to Kieran Burke‘s audio preview ahead of tonight’s LOI action below.
The last two meetings between the sides have seen the spoils shared (1-1 & 0-0) but Cork City did come out on top in a 7 goal thriller early on in the campaign as Gearoid Morrissey scored one of the goals of the season to help last season’s beaten cup finalists and league runners up to an away win.
Graham Cummins was on the scoresheet for City that night and has since departed for Shamrock Rovers and it must be said the Munster outfit look particularly light up top at present. Cork have only scored 8 goals in their last 8 games since crashing out of Europe against Progres of Luxembourg.
Finn Harps collected three consecutive wins during the end of July and start of August to put the squeeze on Cork City in the league standings but Harps have failed to pick up any points since, losing 3 league matches in a row and bowing out of the FAI Cup against Shamrock Rovers. Harps have conceded 10 times in their last 3 matches.
Cork City have shown little to no improvement upon Neale Fenn’s controversial arrival on Leeside, even if it is clear the Londoner has been appointed with a view to the long term good of the club, and having shared a couple of draws already this season a draw is definitely a big possibility here @ 12/5, although the visitors will need to tighten up across the back four.
Derry City v Bohemians. 7.45pm.
The battle for Europe is on and Friday night could be a defining night in that race as 3rd plays 4th at the Brandywell Stadium while 5th placed St.Pat’s sit just 2 points behind Bohemians, who currently occupy the final automatic European spot.
Bohs looked home and housed after a world first-half to the 2019 campaign, however since the Gypsies 10-1 hammering of UCD on the 16th August, Keith Long’s men have lost to Shamrock Rovers and Waterford FC to open the door for Declan Devine’s Derry City.
City come into Friday’s game off the back of the desperate low of missing out on the league cup trophy on penalties, as Dundalk claimed the 1st leg of a potential domestic treble at the Brandywell on Saturday.
The emotional and physical toll of what was an epic 2-2 contest may allow Bohemians to capitalise in what is one of the biggest games of the season for both sides.
In 3 league meetings this term, two have ended in ties while Bohemians claimed a famous 0-2 victory at the Brandywell in April as Danny Mandriou and Dinny Corcoran earned the gypsies a massive 3 points on the road.
In terms of recent league form, Derry have only won 1 of their last 3, defeating bottom side UCD 1-3 before going down 0-2 at home to Shamrock Rovers prior to a 1-1 draw away to Waterford.
Both sides have begun to stutter with the bright shining lights of European football in sight but as previously mentioned, the after effects on Saturday’s full-blooded EA Sports Cup final may come back to haunt Derry and with a win at this venue already under their belts, the recommendation is an away win at 13/5.
UCD v Sligo Rovers, 7.45pm.
Just when they looked dead and buried and on route for instant relegation back to the First Division, UCD picked up a surprise point away to St.Pat’s last week in what was a disappointing start for new Saints manager Stephen O’Donnell.
UCD’s boss is only a newcomer himself with Poland’s Maciej Tarnogrodzki replacing Collie O’Neill after the Students 10-1 hammering at Dalymount Park. However, draws will soon become useless as time ticks away in this season’s top-flight making games like this against Sligo absolutely crucial if UCD are to avoid the drop.
Sligo Rovers may arrive at the UCD Bowl with one eye on next Sunday’s blockbuster home tie with treble chasing Dundalk in the FAI Cup semi-finals, as in truth the Westerners have little to nothing left to play for in the league this season.
UCD bounced back brilliant from that Bohemians humilation by dumping St.Pat’s out of the FAI Cup last month but since then the scoreless draw with the Saints last week is the only positive result UCD have enjoyed with back to back defeats against Dundalk (3-0 & 0-5) and a heavy 4-0 defeat away to Friday’s opponents Sligo Rovers.
Ronan Coughlan, David Cawley, Regan Donelon and Nial Watson were the scores as the “Bit O’Red” breezed by UCD just a fortnight ago.
Comprehensive Sligo Win, -1 on the handicap market looks extremely tempting at 13/8.
Waterford FC v Dundalk
In a week that has seen talk of an 8 team Premier Division in the future, this is another fixture that has a tiresome look to it as Waterford host Dundalk just 11 days after entertaining the Lilywhites in the FAI Cup.
Monday’s 3-1 win at the RSC not only secured the Town a place in the semi-finals but it also kept up Dundalk’s record of scoring 3 or more goals in each meeting with Waterford this season.
Dundalk have won two league meetings 3-0 and another 4-0 and will be confident of securing 3 points on Friday that will set up a potential title winning game against Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park on Monday.
As a result, expect Vinny Perth to make changes for this latest trip to the RSC.
No need to go too deep into the sides recent form as Dundalk’s long unbeaten run is well documented and the fact they have dominated this fixture is the key fact, although Waterford’s surprise win at Dalymount Park on Friday is sure to be a morale booster for Alan Reynold’s charges, even if Bohemians aren’t exactly bang in form themselves at the moment.
I simply can’t see past another comfortable Dundalk win.
Dundalk -1 at 11/10 looks extraordinary value given they have won by -2 in every game against the Blues bar the recent 3-1 FAI Cup win.
Shamrock Rovers v St.Patrick’s Athletic
The first of two massive games in just 3 days for Shamrock Rovers and in truth anything other than 2 wins from 2 will see the title race ended and Dundalk claim a 5th league title in 6 seasons.
St.Pat’s come into this Dublin derby off the back of a disappointing scoreless draw against UCD and Friday’s trip to Tallaght is undoubtedly Stephen O’Donnell’s biggest game in management so far.
Not only would a Pats win essentially end their rivals title hopes it would also give the Saints a real chance of qualifying for Europe for next season.
St.Pat’s have won their last 2 games on the road against Cabinteely in the Leinster Senior Cup and Finn Harps in the league.
Only Bohemains and Dundalk have won at Tallaght this season. Shamrock Rovers are only bettered by Dundalk in terms of a home league record this season with the Hoops boasting 10 wins, 3 draws and 2 defeats from 15 home league matches.
Expect St.Pat’s tails to be up for this Dublin derby, especially now that a European spot is up for grabs. The presence of Dundalk legend Stephen O’Donnell on the sideline is sure to add to the atmosphere at the Tallaght Stadium.
Shamrock Rovers have beaten St.Pat’s on all 3 occasions this season. A 17 point gap in the table between the sides tells a tale of its own and as a result you’d have to think another Hoops win is the most likely outcome here.
Little value to be found here with Rovers as short as 1/2. Most of the meetings between these sides have been tight affairs but even a Rovers win and under 3.5 goals is 10/11 so perhaps it’s best to sit back and watch if St.Pat’s can find any improvement under their new boss.