LOI TV commentator & host of Between the Stripes LOI podcast, Kieran Burke previews gameweek three in the LOI Premier Division which is headlined by the clash of potential title rivals Shamrock Rovers and Derry City.
Cork City v UCD AFC
It’s been a slow start to life back in the Premier Division for First Division champions Cork City who have suffered defeat in both of their opening matches so far. Meanwhile, UCD have defied expectations by securing a point away to Dundalk on the opening night while the Students were robbed by a very poor refereeing decision in an entertaining 3-2 loss at home to Sligo Rovers last time which led to this hilarious piece of commentary on LOI TV.
While Cork City were beaten 2-0 away to Derry City last Friday, there were some positive signs on display as the Rebels troubled Derry with long balls forward and also had some joy on the counter attack with Derry keeper’ Brian Maher making a couple of good saves.
However, when you look at the Cork starting XI in that game, the vast majority were part of their First Division squad last season. While that can sometimes be a positive, most Cork fans seem to agree the squad has not been strengthened as much as they would have liked and this could be a difficult first season back in the top-flight.
That’s what makes this game so important as UCD are everyone’s relegation favourites but having scored three goals in two matches so far, this UCD team do carry an attacking threat and they’ll not be fazed by playing in front of a big Turners Cross crowd, sadly they’ve grown used to playing in front of big crowds with little away support backing them.
BEST BET: BTTS (19/20).
Drogheda United v Sligo Rovers
Tipped to really struggle this season after a difficult off-season in which they again lost some key players, Drogheda United have taken points off both Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers in the opening weeks with the County Louth men once again appearing as if they’ll be a hard nut to crack no matter the opposition this season.
That statement is particularly true at home with the Drogs turning Weavers Park into a really difficult place to go as the Champions again found out last week. As for Sligo Rovers, there may have been an element of fortune about their win against UCD but they also took points off the Champions a week previous so it’s been a good start to the season for John Russell’s men.
Drogheda manager Kevin Doherty will have identified some potential chinks in the Sligo Rovers armour from that UCD game and with Drogheda so well organised at home there’s every chance they’ll pick up another point here.
PREDICTION: Draw (12/5)
Dundalk FC v St.Patrick’s Athletic
An intriguing contests for a range of reasons, some sporting. some not so. Sticking with on the field matters though, it’s been a dreadful start to the new season for Stephen O’Donnell’s Dundalk with the Lilywhites sitting on just one point after two matches. While St.Pat’s were below par at home to Shelbourne last time, the Saints found a way to get the job done (1-0) and will be pleased with a tally of four points so far.
Four of Dundalk’s eight winter arrivals started in the 2-1 loss at Bohemians on Friday and the Louthmen very much appeared to have an undercooked look about them as the new signings try and bed in not only to a new team but a new league as well of course.
Dundalk again struggled to create with just two shots on target at Dalymount Park while star striker Pat Hoban has been next to anonymous in 180 minutes (bar a penalty miss against UCD). Pats main striker Eoin Doyle hasn’t started either game yet this season but the ex-Bolton striker grabbed the winner from the bench against Shelbourne and in Doyle they know they have a match winner.
Pat’s have also looked like a team going through a mini transition having lost midfield general Adam O’Reilly to Derry while Jake Mulraney, Vlad Kreida, Noah Lewis, and Tommy Lonergan all started on Friday having only signed for the club in the off-season.
St.Pat’s handed Dundalk their only defeat at Oriel Park last season and there’s every chance they can claim a positive result again given how flat Dundalk have been so far this season. However, with this being a meeting of two teams who may be struggling to find their rhythm in the early part of the year, it may not be a classic, it should be fiery though given the recent history between the clubs.
PREDICTION: Draw (9/4)
CORRECT SCORE PREDICTION: 1-1 (9/2)
BEST BET: Under 2.5 goals (13/20)
Shelbourne v Bohemians
Same old Shels….Damien Duff’s men just don’t score enough goals and having turned down some glorious openings in their first two matches (most famously, Matty Smith’s open goal shocker against Drogheda), you have to task yourself who the Duffer can look towards as his go to goalscorer this season?
Bohemians couldn’t be any more of a contrast from last season, the Gypsies were absolutely hopeless in 2022 but some smart business in the off-season from Declan Devine has certainly given Bohs fans hope that 2023 can be a great year for the club.
Declan Devine had a bit of a sweat on to get defenders into the club in time for the new season but the former Derry boss appears to have done well in that regard with Bohs limiting Dundalk to just two shots on goal last week while only for a mad goalkeeping howler on the opening night Bohs may have kept a clean sheet in their win over Cork City.
Even as the home side, Shels are likely to set up not to lose this game while Bohs will be high on confidence after such a strong start.
PREDICTION: Bohemians win (21/10).
Shamrock Rovers v Derry City
The game of the weekend as champions Shamrock Rovers play in front of their home fans for the first time this season. Derry City beat the Hoops in the Presidents Cup final just three weeks ago and Ruadhri Higgins will be hoping that’s not the only prize his players pip Rovers to this year.
It’s been a dramatic start to the new campaign for Rovers who have thrown away late leads in both of their games so far while more damagingly perhaps, the Hoops have seen defenders Pico Lopes, Dan Cleary and Lee Grace all sent off leaving Stephen Bradley with a real selection crisis this weekend.
However, his counterpart Higgins also has headaches to contend with as Derry City are likely to be without a number of key players for the trip to Tallaght through injury. In saying that, Higgins went out and beefed up his squad during the off-season for situations like this and you’d certainly rather be without players across a range of positions as opposed to have three of your four senior centre-backs unavailable for such an important match.
If Derry City want to be champions this season, I’d argue this is the sort of game they need to win given the Hoops defensive issues and at 15/8 they’re took good of a price to ignore.
BEST BET: Derry City win (15/8)