The longest shortest season in League of Ireland history comes to a conclusion tonight as the final round of fixtures in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division takes place.
While Shamrock Rovers have long been determined as this seasons champions there is still plenty to play for tonight with as many as four sides (depending on cup results) still harboring European dreams for next season while one of Derry City, Shelbourne or Finn Harps will need to face Longford Town in the promotion/relegation game after tonight is done and dusted.
CORK CITY v DERRY CITY:
A miserable season for the Rebels comes to a welcome close this evening at Turners Cross with the hosts already condemned to First Division football next term. As for Derry though, there fall from grace has been fairly staggering this season also with Declan Devine’s men falling from European qualifiers to relegation play-off candidates.
A lack of creative spark and flow has really dogged Derry this season and with Cork caretaker boss Colin Healy sure to demand a display of defiance and pride from his young side this might not be as straight forward as many punters may think.
While Derry’s charges should take confidence from their two most recent meetings with Cork (31 & 4-0 wins) there has to be a great deal of nerves inside that Candystripes changing room and with Cork on a hiding to nothing, this could be a good opportunity to dip into the handicap markets with Cork +1 at 23/20.
ST.PAT’S v BOHEMIANS:
A Dublin derby and one Pats must win to stand any chance of a top-four finish and European football next season (if a top 3 team wins the FAI Cup).
However, Pats are another side who have flattered to deceive under rookie boss Stephen O’Donnell and while there’s arguments to be made that the Saints are working towards a longer-term project under the former Dundalk captain that’s no good to us today from a betting perspective.
While Bohemians have little to play for other than Capital bragging rights this is a fixture the Gypsies have dominated in recent times (last league defeat 2018) and Keith Long’s side always seem to bounce back well after a defeat (lost 0-2 to Finn Harps LTO).
Having not played a game since the end of October this derby is a good opportunity to sharpen the sights ahead of a huge FAI Cup quarter-final with Dundalk and I fully expect the Gypsies to prevail at Richmond Park this evening.
BEST BET: BOHEMIANS WIN (12/5)
DUNDALK v SLIGO:
Despite qualifying for the Europa League group stages Dundalk fans will be glad to see the back of this season. Reported in-fighting between board level and management saw Vinny Perth’s fate sealed with unknown Italian Filippo Giovagnoli called to steady the ship. And while he has achieved that to a degree all his work will be undone if the Lilywhites fail to secure a top 3 finish and with it European football in 2021.
Sligo Rovers hammered Dundalk early on in the season but that was the first game post-Vinny Perth and there have certainly been lots of improvements since.
Rotation from European to domestic duties has certainly contributed to a lack of consistency from Dundalk in recent weeks but with no Europa League game this week the Town can focus on getting the job done here and road mapping their way to more continental excitement in the new year.
BEST BET: Dundalk only needs a point to secure third and that’s exactly what I fancy them to get but Sligo draw no bet looks good value at 4/1 just in case the Lilywhites do falter.
SHELBOURNE v SHAMROCK ROVERS:
Even the Champions have a little something on the line tonight as Stephen Bradley’s Hoops look to complete an unbeaten domestic campaign. The double is still very much on the cards for last seasons FAI Cup winners who have blooded some wonderfully talented youngsters in recent games such as Dean Williams, Thomas Oluwa and Max Murphy.
The Tallaght club would love nothing more than to pile misery on their old Dublin rivals by potentially condemning them to a relegation play-off and for me, this is one of the more straightforward predictions of the night.
BEST BET: SHAMROCK ROVERS WIN (2/5)
FINN HARPS v WATERFORD
Perhaps the most interesting game of the night as Finn Harps requires a win and results elsewhere to escape a relegation play-off while Waterford needs a win and a Dundalk defeat to secure third and with it European football.
We were served up a five-goal thriller the last time these two sides met with Finn Harps coming from behind to snatch a late victory with long throws into the box a key weapon on the day.
With the Donegal men now within touching distance of unlikely survival in the top-flight you can expect the mother of all aerial bombardments tonight it ain’t pretty but Ollie Horgan and his players make no apologies for it and nor should they.
Harps have ended the season with a flurry with their only defeat in the last seven games coming against the Champions. While Waterford have been great entertainment at this season their lack of consistency is what may cost them a top-four berth in the finish and I have a feeling that inconsistency may strike again tonight at a venue which is not particularly geared towards a passing game.
BEST BET: Harps win (13/10)
VALUE BET: Harps 1-0 (5/1)