It’s shaping up to be a very good Friday in the League of Ireland with the Dublin derby between Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers at a sold out Dalymount Park the highlight of the weekend. LOI TV commentator and host of Between the Stripes LOI podcast Kieran Burke previews the action for us.
Bohemians v Shamrock Rovers – Virgin Media 2, 7.45
The TV cameras roll into Dalymount Park for what is a crucial Dublin derby, even this early on in the season, as league leaders Bohemians seek to stop any chance of a Hoops resurgence following Shamrock Rovers impressive 4-0 win away to Dundalk last week.
Incredibly, that was Rovers first win of the season and Stephen Bradley will be aware his team now need to go on a winning sequence if they are to catch the likes of Bohs and Derry City who have set a strong early pace.
Bohs have lost just once this season and that was when they were reduced to 10 men in a fiery Dublin derby away to Shelbourne so keeping their cool in this setting will be key.
Three of the four H2H encounters last season featured just one goal which tells you these meetings can often fall into the typically “cagey derby” category. Shamrock Rovers have drawn 5 of their opening 7 and while they need to start stringing wins together if they are to overturn the ten point deficit between themselves and Bohs, this is a game they certainly won’t want to lose.
BEST BET: Under 2.5 goals (7/10)
UCD v Shelbourne – LOI TV, 7.45
This is a meeting of the leagues two most goal shy teams with UCD and Shelbourne scoring just 8 goals between them this season. However, how Shels haven’t scored more goals is a mystery, well it’s quite simple actually, they have missed some absolute sitters much to the frustration of manager Damien Duff.
Putting the ball in the back of the net is the most difficult part of the game and if you can forgive Shels some of their sloppiness in the finishing department they have actually played quite well in plenty of games this season.
It’s hard to give such positives about UCD who have lost every game since their encouraging 1-1 draw away to Dundalk on the opening night. Defensively the Students have been all over the shop and if Shelbourne can’t find a way to put the ball in the net here then you would be seriously worried about who they might be able to score against this season.
BEST BET: Shelbourne (1/2)
Dundalk v Sligo Rovers – LOI TV, 7.45
While it would be easy to point towards Robbie Benson’s early red card and make excuses for Dundalk’s hammering at home to Shamrock Rovers last week, the simple fact is the Lilywhites haven’t been purring for much of this season. A dour home draw on the opening night against UCD has been followed up with defeat in Dalymount, a lucky win away to Drogheda and last week’s hammering. A 5-0 win at home to St.Pat’s is difficult to get excited about when you realise how poor the visitors were that night although Dundalk deserve credit for a gutsy display when drawing away to Derry.
Sligo Rovers have also been up and down this season with the Bit O’Red playing really well when drawing away to Derry a fortnight ago but a flat performance at home to Bohemians followed (lost 1-0). Backing up good results has been an ongoing issue at Sligo for a number of seasons now and that will need to change if they are to maintain ambitions of a top four finish and a return to Europe.
Given the unconvincing nature of both teams this is a difficult fixture to call. Should Pat Hoban remain sidelined for Dundalk you’d be concerned as they really miss the big man when he’s not up there. Dundalk will have noted Bohs winner came from a set piece last week so perhaps the likes of Andy Boyle could be worth a small goalscorer bet (18/1 anytime). Aside from that, this is a game I’ll be shying away from.
St.Patrick’s Athletic v Cork City – LOI TV, 7.45
Pat’s boss Tim Clancy really needed the breathing room created by a 3-0 win at home to UCD last week following a slow start to the season but that result will count for nothing if they can’t back it up at home to Cork tonight.
City meanwhile were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Drogheda and were fortunate not to lose the game late on. Cork have mainly kept their First Division squad from last season and they do seem to be lacking in top-flight quality. Staying up would be a successful season for the Rebels.
Chris Forrester was on the double against UCD and they really need the likes of Forrester, Eoin Doyle and Jake Mulraney to step up in games likes this and assert their quality on the opposition. If they can do that, Pat’s should have enough to win this but you couldn’t be overly strong on them at the moment.
BEST BET: Pat’s (9/10)
Derry City v Drogheda United – LOI TV, 7.45
Given Shamrock Rovers slow start, Derry City are now many peoples title favourites but the Candystripes will have to up their game if they are to kick on and build a strong lead at the top of the table. Derry have dominated the ball in most of their matches but have on occasions struggled to turn that pressure into out and out chances and shots on goal.
With that in mind, Drogheda are far from an ideal opponent. The Drogs are well used to sitting in and soaking up large amounts of pressure without facing too many shots on their goal. Sitting fifth in the table, Drogheda have been one of the leagues surprise packages so far and will not be rolled over.
Derry’s inability to put games to bed hasn’t been helped by injuries to key players such as Michael Duffy and Adam O’Reilly and given the last three H2H’s between these two ended 1-1 it’s difficult to view 7/20 for a home win as good value.
With Bohemians facing Shamrock Rovers tonight, Derry City need to put the pressure on their title rivals by getting a home win here. While I expect this to be very tight, Derry City to win and under 3.5 goals looks the value bet @ 19/20.
UCD are the only team Derry have hammered this year (0-4), every other win has been by a 1 or 2 goal margin while Bohemians are the only team to have beaten Drogheda (3-1) but on the flip side Drogheda are yet to score more than once in any game this season.
BEST BET: Derry City win & under 3.5 goals (19/20).