Friday’s LOI Previews (30/6/23)

LOI TV commentator & host of Between the Stripes LOI podcast Kieran Burke looks ahead to the latest round of matches in the League of Ireland Premier Division.

Friday nights LOI Premier Division betting markets can be viewed, here.

St.Patrick’s Athletic v UCD AFC – 7.45, LOI TV.

Simply put, the Saints threw away three points in Oriel Park on Monday night. Leading 1-0 and a man up after Tulloch’s sending off for Dundalk, St.Pat’s sat back and tried to coast to a single goal victory instead of going for the kill. A defensive mix up between Noah Lewis and goalkeeper Den Lyness allowed Daniel Kelly to creep in with a late equaliser for the Lilywhites on a night St.Pat’s could have announced themselves as Shamrock Rovers main title challengers. The good news is Pats still could very well be the best of the rest behind Shamrock Rovers with Jon Daly’s men currently level on points with second placed Derry City.

Pat’s gifted Dundalk an equaliser on Monday night.

A home tie against the leagues bottom side looks an ideal way to bounce back although Pats will be aware they must not underestimate UCD if they want to avoid a similar fate suffered by Sligo Rovers last week. Even with that shock 2-1 victory, UCD looked doomed to relegation with the Students currently 12 points from safety after the half way stage in the season.

22 points from a possible 30 has been a wonderful return for new Pats boss Jon Daly and he’ll fully expect his side to go about the task at hand in a professional manner here. While Pats failed to put their foot to the throat of Dundalk on Monday they still had chances to go 2-0 up and kill the game off with St.Par’s opening goal a lovely flowing move finished off by promising young talent Conor Carthy.

St.Pat’s should have way too much quality for the leagues bottom side and may take out some of their midweek frustrations on UCD here.

Prediction: St.Pat’s (1/7)

Best bet: St.Pat’s -1 (1/2)

Shelbourne v Derry City – 7.45, LOI TV

We’re only heading into July and already the title looks beyond Derry City despite all of the excitement and expectation surrounding the Candystripes this season. Monday’s tame 1-0 defeat in Tallaght sees Shamrock Rovers sitting seven points clear of a Derry City side who have never fully convinced during the first half of the year.

Despite dominating possession in so many games this season, Derry often look toothless in front of goal as illustrated by he fact they’ve now failed to score in four of their last six matches.

Scoring goals, or rather not scoring enough of them, has also been a huge problem for Shelbourne this season with only UCD scoring fewer than Damien Duff’s men. However, Shelbourne currently hold the best defensive record in the league and their strong structure and regimented organisation could prove to be a real nightmare for this misfiring Derry City side who will be aware internally of the pressure building outside of their dressing room walls.

There has been just one goal across two H2H’s involving the sides this season, that was a 1-0 win at Tolka Park for Derry City with Shelbourne being controversially reduced to 10 men early on in the second-half. Given how Shelbourne set up and Derry City’s lack of confidence in front of goal, I expect this to be a fairly dour affair.

Prediction: 0-0 (5/1)

Best bet: Shelbourne or draw (6/10)

Dundalk v Shamrock Rovers – 7.45, LOI TV

Two sides that enjoyed productive double headers in recent days with both Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers coming away from tough Friday/Monday fixtures with four points apiece. Rovers may be slightly disappointed to have come away from Dalymount Park on Friday with only a point after leading 2-0 but any result away to your biggest rivals will always be welcomed while Monday’s 1-0 win at home to Derry City has put Rovers very much in the driving seat to go on and claim a fourth consecutive league title.

As for Dundalk, Stephen O’Donnell’s men continue to pick up results while being far from at their best. Both Drogheda United and St.Pat’s let the Lillywhites off the hook in recent days and while a run of three wins and a draw will always be welcome, Stephen O’Donnell has admitted he would like to see his side play a lot better and they’ll probably have to as a rampant Rovers come to town.

Stephen Bradley’s side have won four and drawn one of their last five matches and are keen to open up a large lead at the top before European assignments start to hopefully pile up in the coming months. Rovers have cruised to victory in their last three meetings with Dundalk and while Oriel Park is never an easy place to go, particularly when Dundalk are going through a good run of form, it’s hard to look past the Champions who look a cut above the rest of the division even when they are slightly below their best.

Prediction: Shamrock Rovers (17/20)

Cork City v Drogheda United – 7.45, LOI TV

As if a derby defeat to Dundalk wasn’t bad enough for Drogheda United fans over the weekend, supporters of the Boynesiders have since been hit with the news that two of their star performers this season, Freddie Drapper and Elicha Ahui, are to return to parent club Lincoln after this weekend.

The news Drogheda United fans had been dreading.

The loss of Drapper is particularly difficult news for Drogheda to stomach with the teenager scoring 8 times this season for the Louth men. United boss Kevin Doherty will tell you Drapper is far more than just the goals he scores with the centre forward a real focal point for the Drogs attack this season.

Drapper will be unavailable for this crucial relegation scrap after being sent off during Friday’s dramatic Louth derby defeat to Dundalk, a game Drogheda should have won had they taken their chances. Sadly, that’s far from the first time such post-game comments have been applied to Drogheda who should be much further away from the relegation play-off zone than two points given their performances this season.

As a result, Cork City will be eyeing this home fixture as a chance to leapfrog the visitors and climb out of the relegation play-off position. While the Rebels have lost their two matches they had won their previous four games prior to that and will fancy their chances against a deflated Drogheda.

Prediction: Cork City (13/10)

Sligo Rovers v Bohemians – 7.45, LOI TV

Sligo Rovers are in trouble…….massive trouble. Friday’s 2-1 defeat against UCD confirmed the Bit O’Red as potential relegation candidates with the Westerners losing 7 of their last 10 games! An 11th defeat of the season from just 22 matches could spell the end for manager John Russell if Sligo go down here against Bohemians on Friday.

Bohs will fancy their chances away from home having won both games against Sligo Rovers this season while the Gypsies should have good momentum with them after coming from behind to earn a point against old foes Shamrock Rovers at the weekend.

While that result will obviously have pleased Declan Devine, the Bohs boss will be acutely aware that his team have claimed just one win in their last eight. With three draws from their last five matches Bohemians need to start turning those ties into wins if they are to stay in the mix for European football next season.

Afolabi scored a rocket against Rovers on Friday.

Jonathan Afolabi scored just his third goal of the season in Friday’s Dublin derby but Devine has been quick to praise the influence the ex-Celtic man has had on his team this season and I get the feeling he may soon go on a goal scoring run. Don’t forget, many people wrote off Georgie Kelly after a similary slow start at Bohs and look what happened to him! I’ve seen more than enough from Afolabi to suggest he’ll be a success at Dalymount Park, perhaps he could be the difference here in what looks set to be a tight affair with neither side in top form at the moment.

Best bet: Afolabi anytime (11/4).

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*Odds were correct at time of publishing the article