The League of Ireland Premier Division returns after the international break with five matches and LOI TV commentator and host of Between the Stripes LOI podcast Kieran Burke has previewed the action for us.
Cork City v Drogheda United
Before a ball was kicked this season, this fixture would have been flagged up as a potential six-pointer in the battle to avoid the relegation play-off place and while both Cork City and Drogheda United have picked up some fine early results this season, it’s difficult to see what other clubs are genuine bottom two contenders.
City suffered a disappointing 2-0 home defeat to Shelbourne before the break while Drogheda United somehow lost the Louth derby against Dundalk. The Drogs dominated that game and missed some great chances including a late penalty.
Drogheda have conceded just 5 goals in 6 matches and will head down to Turners Cross confident of getting something out of the game.
Prediction: Draw (12/5)
Dundalk v Shamrock Rovers
It’s hard to believe the defending champions Shamrock Rovers are heading into game seven of the season still looking for a first win. Strangely, the Hoops have been playing well in most of their matches but some sloppy individual errors at the back of costs the champions crucial points. There is a feeling it’s only a matter of time before things click but Oriel Park would seem an unlikely venue for that to happen given the Lilywhites imperious home form.
Dundalk are yet to fully convince me this season despite sitting just four points off the top. Stephen O’Donnell’s men were blessed to win in Drogheda before the break and will need to play an awful lot better against what is still a high class Rovers team.
Rayhaan Tulloch and Conor Malley have made big impacts at Dundalk this season and the on loan West Brom winger Tulloch could cause this shaky Hoops defense some major problems on the night. Pat Hoban’s return of just one goal in six matches is a concern however.
Rovers have drawn 5 of their 6 matches so far and this should be a fiercely fought encounter in front of a reeved up home crowd.
Prediction: Draw (12/5)
Shelbourne v Derry City
Given Shamrock Rovers slow start it’s incredible to think that Derry City are not top of the table. However, Bohemians rampant start under ex-Derry boss Declan Devine combined with some sluggish Candystripes performances mean Derry sit just seven points clear of the defending champions.
Derry dominated the ball against Sligo Rovers in their final game before the break, as you’d expect them to do at home, but Ruadhri Higgins team only had two shots on target and turning dominance into real chances has been an issue in some games for Derry this season.
If ever there was a fixture to test Derry’s ability to break down a low block it’s a trip to Tolka Park with Damien Duff’s Reds one of the leagues most organised and resolute sides. Shels have the joint best defence in the league having conceded just three goals and are coming into the fixture off the back of a very satisfying win in Cork.
Prediction: Draw (23/10)
St.Patrick’s Athletic v UCD
Saints boss Tim Clancy managed to create some breathing space for himself with a point in Tallaght before the break and a home game against the leagues bottom side is surely the perfect way to leave a lot of the early season negativity behind.
UCD are well accustomed to being written off and will come into the game quietly confident of an upset having played very well in defeat against league leaders Bohemians last time out. UCD toom the lead in that game and if they could do similar at Richmond Park they may be able to feed off some of the negativity in the air at St.Pat’s currently.
St.Pat’s have games upcoming against Cork City and Drogheda United so if they can get a win here then this could be a good opportunity to start a winning sequence.
Prediction: St.Pat’s (1/4)
Sligo Rovers v Bohemians
Sligo Rovers were excellent for large parts of their 1-1 draw in Derry last time and in Max Mata they’ve got a man who knows where the back of the net is. The New Zealand international is the leagues top goalscorer with 5 and is helping to filling the void left by Aidan Keena who scored again for Cheltenham Town last night.
Bohemians have made a flying start winning 5 of their opening 6 matches and sit top of the table. Bohs only defeat came away from home when they were reduced to 10 men against Shelbourne and the Showgrounds is no easy venue to visit with Sligo unbeaten there this season.
Fabrice Hartmann, who is on loan at Sligo from RB Leipzig, was excellent at the Brandywell and could be a player to watch this season while Greg Bolger is still a key clog in the Rovers midfield.
As for Bohs, Ali Coote has arguably been one of the best players in the league this season with Jonathan Afolabi and Paddy Kirk also impressing.
There won’t be much between the sides on Saturday.
Prediction: Draw (11/5)