With both Shamrock Rovers and Derry City claiming quickfire back-to-back wins on Friday and Monday the title race is starting to take shape while Bohemians will want to remind onlookers that they are not to be discounted just yet. The battle for the top four looks wide open while the relegation race is far from an open and shut case. With the 2023 season starting to simmer just nicely, LOI TV commentator and Between the Stripes LOI podcast host Kieran Burke is back to preview another big Friday of matches in the top-flight.
Cork City v Sligo Rovers – 7.45, LOI TV
Sligo Rovers manager John Russell slammed his teams performance after the Bit O’Red were comprehensively beaten 3-0 at home to Shelbourne last weekend. Russell will be demanding a reaction from his players as they head to relegation threatened Cork City on Friday night.
The Rebels will still be scratching their heads as to how they came away from Oriel Park with nothing more than a couple of red cards to show for their efforts. Late red cards for Josh Honohan and Cian Coleman allowed Dundalk to score two goals in stoppage time to claim a 2-1 victory.
While Coleman’s sending off looked harsh, an appeal by Cork has since proven unsuccessful which means managerless Cork City will be down further bodies for the visit of Sligo Rovers. While they haven’t shown much of it of late, Sligo Rovers do have some good individual talents in their squad and I expect them to take advantage of Cork’s current predicament by bouncing back to winning ways here.
HOT STAT: Cork City have lost their last 6 matches and have won just 1 of their last 12.
PREDICTION: Sligo Rovers (23/20)
Shelbourne v St.Patrick’s Athletic – 7.45, Virgin Media 2.
The TV cameras come to Town for a Dublin derby of crucial importance in the race to qualify for Europe. An unbeaten run of eight in the league has seen Damien Duff’s Shels climb to within one point of the top four with last weekends 3-0 hammering of Sligo Rovers one of their best performances during Duff’s tenure in charge.
Midfielder Jack Moylan lit up the game and looks a player that will earn a big move abroad if he continues to improve at the current rate he’s showing in a Shels shirt while St.Pat’s Chris Forrester has also been in tremendous form this season. Which of the two midfield mavericks who can impose their game on the opposition on Friday could be the deciding factor in who comes away with the all important three points with just one point and one place separating the two teams in the table.
Scoring goals had been a problem for Shels earlier in the season but thankfully the Reds have started to turn a corner in that regard with Duffers men finding the net in their last 8 matches in all competitions. How ambitious the Shelbourne boss is with his approach to this game will be interesting with the Ireland legend often opting for a safer approach in these sort of fixtures.
St.Patrick’s Athletic are still deciding on a replacement for Tim Clancy but interim manager John Daly has definitely done enough to put his name in the hat for the gig full time after two wins and an unlucky late defeat away to Shamrock Rovers last time.
This is by far and away the most difficult game of the weekend to call but it’s certainly the game to watch so I’ll be keeping my money in my pocket for this one.
Derry City v UCD – 7.45, LOI TV
This should be fairly academic for Derry City against the UCD Students as the title challengers welcome the leagues bottom side to the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium. The Candystripes had to work hard for a 1-0 win at Dalymount Park on Friday despite Bohemians going down to 10 men inside five minutes but Derry did back that result up with a comprehensive 3-0 success against Dundalk on Monday.
Ruadhri Higgins side have now won their last three matches to nil and having rested players for the Dundalk game on Monday, which was particularly comfortable, this could be a long night at the office for UCD.
Andy Myler’s team have lost their last three matches to nil and are winless in their last five.
PREDICTION: Derry City (1/8)
BEST BET: Derry City win to nil (1/2)
Dundalk v Bohemians – 7.45, LOI TV
Dundalk fans have become accustomed to success and great teams over the last decade or so but while it’s still early days for this latest crop of Lilywhites they do look to be a fairly average side, especially when compared to those great Dundalk teams of the past.
Stephen O’Donnell is not being helped by injuries at the moment but the limitations of this Dundalk team were greatly exposed in Monday’s 3-0 loss to Derry with Dundalk failing to lay as much as a glove on the Candystripes.
With all of that in mind, Bohemians probably need to be winning this game if they want to keep themselves in the title conversation. Recent defeats against Shamrock Rovers and Derry City have probably shown this Bohs team aren’t just there yet but they’ve still enjoyed an excellent start to the season and won’t fear a trip to Oriel Park like they may have in years gone by.
The Gypsies won the reverse fixture 2-1 at Dalymount Park but this won’t be easy as despite some fairly lackluster displays of late, Dundalk did manage to string four straight wins together before the disaster in Derry on Monday. Stephen O’Donnell rested the likes of Pat Hoban on Monday and the former Dundalk skipper is sure to be demanding a reaction from his players.
Prediction: Draw (11/5)
BEST BET: Bohemians draw no bet (9/10)
Shamrock Rovers v Drogheda United – 8.00, LOI TV
The odds on Shamrock Rovers claiming a fourth consecutive league title are shortening by the week with the Hoops currently on a six-game winning streak to shoot two points clear at the top of the table. Such a scenario seemed a long way away just a few weeks ago after the Hoops failed to win any of their first six league games gifting Derry City an early lead in the title race.
However, Derry didn’t make as much of the head start as they should have and now they find themselves chasing a ruthless winning machine. Even when they are playing below their best Shamrock Rovers still look a cut above everyone else in this league and should face no issues in sweeping an out of form Drogheda aside at the Tallaght Stadium.
While Drogheda’s performances of late have been very positive they’ve failed to win in any of their last seven (losing five) and have failed to score in three of those matches including their last two. Putting the ball in the back of the net has been their Achilles heel with the Drogs tally of 11 goals in 15 games the worst attacking record in the division bar bottom side UCD.
When you get opportunities against these top teams you’ve simply got to take them or a hard luck story is certain to follow, Drogheda have had far too many of those lately and it’s difficult to see how their fortunes will change here against a terminator like Shamrock Rovers.
Prediction: Shamrock Rovers (3/10)
BEST BET: Shamrock Rovers -1 (19/20)