It’s the final round of League of Ireland games ahead of the mid-season break and LOI TV commentator Kieran Burke is back once again to preview the latest round of Premier Division fixtures.
Derry City v Bohemians – RTE 2, 7.45 – DOUBLE THE ODDS FIRST GOALSCORER.
Monday’s 4-1 hammering away to St.Pat’s leaves Derry City playing catch up going into the summer break with the Candystripes struggling for form in recent weeks. Now winless in their last three, Ruadhri Higgins side have struggled to establish any real rhythm in the first half of the season with pressure now starting to build given the level of resources poured into the club over the last year or so.
The fact that sections of the fanbase are unhappy with being second at this stage of the season tells you all you need to know in regards to what’s expected at the club these days. There has also been murmurings of discontent in regards to the teams style of play, particularly at home, which means there is tones of pressure on City going into this live TV game.
After a rapid start to the season in which Bohemians took up the early running, Declan Devine’s side have now slipped to fourth in the table after just one win in their last six games. Overall though, Bohs fans will be happy with what they’ve seen from their newly assembled side this season with a return to Europe very much the goal in sight.
Both teams have very similar goals for and goals against records this season with Derry two points better off than Bohs but they have played a game more than the Foylesiders. Both H2H encounters this season have resulted in 1-0 wins for both sides and with Derry struggling at home on the Brandywell’s 4G surface (4th worst home record, P10, W4, D3, L3) this could be another low scoring affair.
In terms of a FGS bet in this one,
PREDICTION: Draw (13/5)
BEST BET: Under 2.5 (7/10)
Cork City v Dundalk – 7.45 LOITV
Amazingly, since parting way with their respective managers in the same week, Cork City and St.Patrick’s Athletic sit top of the form table over the past five matches thanks to four wins each in that time. Cork City’s revival is all the more astonishing given they are yet to appoint a new boss with reports this week suggesting the club will stick with their caretaker team until the end of the season and it’s difficult to argue against that given recent results.
As for Dundalk, Stephen O’Donnell is a manager who has come in for flak of his own in recent weeks but Monday’s 4-1 win at home to UCD will have offered some much needed breathing room. In saying that, a win at home to the leagues bottom side will only gather up so much goodwill with a trip to a hostile Turners Cross a far greater test of where this Dundalk team are going into the break.
Defensively Dundalk have been wide open this season. The Lilywhites will equal their goals against tally for all of last season when they eventually concede three more goals. At the other end, Dundalk have struggled to create but there were some positives signs in that regard during Friday’s defeat in Tallaght and Monday’s win against the Students.
Creating opportunities against this rigid Cork side won’t be easy with Liam Buckley instilling a real solidness about the Rebels in recent weeks (3 clean sheets in last 4 matches). Buckley appears to have gone back to basics by making his team hard to beat while he has deployed Tunde Owolabi and Ruari Keating to stretch opposition back fours with their pace and the pair have thrived in such a system with Owolabi scoring three goals in five matches under Buckley’s watch while Keating has scored two in his last four.
The meeting between these two sides here earlier in the season was the most forgettable game you will ever have seen with Cian Murphy’s goal for Cork City the only shot on target from either side throughout the 90 minutes. The reverse fixture in Oriel was certainly more memorable as Cork City threw away a 1-0 lead late on with Dundalk pouncing with two injury time goals to win 2-1 with City having two players sent off just before the Dundalk goals.
Dundalk were fortunate that day and there’s a feeling karma may come around here.
PREDICTION: Cork City (9/5)
BEST BET: Under 2.5 (4/5)
Shelbourne v Sligo Rovers – 7.45 LOITV
At the start of the season the majority of pundits would have had Shelbourne down as potential relegation candidates with Sligo Rovers eyeing up a place in Europe. However, as we approach the summer break it is very much roles reversed with Damien Duff’s Reds ticking along nicely in fifth while Sligo Rovers sit just two points outside of the relegation play-off place.
Five defeats in their last six matches has Sligo Rovers bang in trouble while Shels have been one of the leagues more consistent sides in what has been a very unpredictable season with the Drumcondra outfit only beaten once in their last 12 matches.
Irish legend Damien Duff has drilled his team into a mean outfit defensively with Shels conceding just 13 goals in 19 games, a league best record. Sligo Rovers have conceded exactly double that tally and look like a team going no where fast.
Scoring goals has been Shelbourne’s Achilles heel with only the bottom two scoring fewer but Sligo Rovers have scored the same amount of goals as Shels (19) with 9 of those coming through star striker Max Mata. Without the New Zealanders input Sligo Rovers could be in a whole world of trouble.
With the top four within touching distance, Tolka Park will be rocking for this fixture, a venue Shelbourne have lost just twice at this season. With Sligo Rovers mentality very much in question in recent weeks, this could be a long night at the office in front of such a hostile crowd. Only the bottom two have a weaker record on the road this season than the Bit O’Red.
PREDICTION: Shelbourne (5/4)
BEST BET: Sean Boyd anytime scorer (7/2)
Drogheda United v St.Patrick’s Athletic – 7.45 LOITV
As referenced earlier, St.Pat’s have gone on a fantastic run of form since parting ways with Tim Clancy. Whatever Clancy’s former assistant Jon Daly has done with this group of players it’s working, as illustrated during Monday’s humbling of Derry City. That result leaves the Saints just four points off the top with a trip to relegation threatened Drogheda their final stop before the mid-season break.
It was a damaging Bank Holiday weekend for the Drogs with consecutive defeats sending them below Cork City and into the leagues relegation play-off position. With goalkeeper Colin McCabe at fault for the only goal of the game against Cork on Friday, teenager Andrew Wogan was given the nod for Monday’s trip to Tolka Park. Sadly, Wogan looked as if he could have done better with Shels first goal which leaves United boss Kevin Doherty with a huge headache between the posts for the visit of the in form Saints.
With Chris Forrester having a stellar season (9 goals in 20), a confident St.Pat’s should have too much for a Drogheda team who may be in need of the break.
PREDICTION: St.Pat’s win (21/20)
Shamrock Rovers v UCD, 8.00 LOITV
A preview that won’t take too long. It’s top v bottom at the Tallaght Stadium where Shamrock Rovers will expect to extend their four point gap at the top of the table as UCD come to town off the back of seven consecutive defeats.
Shamrock Rovers breezed through a potentially tricky Bank Holiday set of fixtures by beating both Dundalk and Sligo Rovers to nil and given the Hoops have won their last nine games against the Students without conceding this should be a walk in the park.
Shamrock Rovers have won their last 14 meetings with UCD.
PREDICTION: Shamrock Rovers (1/16)
BEST BET: Shamrock Rovers win to nil (11/20)