Two huge games take place tonight in the LOI Premier Division with Dundalk and St.Patrick’s Athletic facing off at Oriel Park in a significant clash in the race for Europe while the top two meet at Tallaght Stadium where Shamrock Rovers can take a huge step towards a fourth consecutive league title with victory against Derry City.
I was in attendance on Friday night as Dundalk came from behind to claim a third win from three Louth derbies against Drogheda United. Not for the first time this season, I left a Dundalk game scratching my head as to how Stephen O’Donnell’s men had come away with the three points. In fairness to O’Donnell, the Dundalk Head Coach admitted after the game his team need to be better as missed chances were again the order of the day for unlucky Drogheda.
Dundalk started both halves on Friday very slowly and sluggishly and are unlikely to be let off the hook quite so easily by an in-form St.Pat’s. The Saints come into tonight’s game buoyed by a narrow Dublin derby success against Shelbourne on Friday night, a result that leaves the boys from Inchicore sitting third and three points clear of Dundalk ahead of this latest encounter between the two sides who have developed a heated rivalry in recent seasons.
The most recent chapter was a thrilling one as ten-man St.Pat’s beat Dundalk 2-1 at Richmond Park in what was officially Jon Daly’s first game in charge of Pats. Daly’s impact has been instant with the 2021 FAI Cup winners picking up 21 points from a possible 27 since Tim Clancy’s exit from the Richmond Park hotseat.
Dundalk start the night as 7/5 favourites with the visitors 9/5. For me, Dundalk are too short even with a three match running streak behind them. With these two sides among the most in-form in the division currently, it’s difficult to call what way this match might go so I’m instead drawn towards some of the other markets on offer.
Oriel Park has seen more games with over 2.5 goals than any other venue this season with 9 of Dundalk’s 10 home matches featuring 3 goals or more. With 8 goals been scored across the two H2H’s between the sides this season, I’m drawn towards the over 2.5 goals market at 15/20.
The Hoops can take a large stride towards a fourth consecutive league title with victory over their main challengers Derry City tonight. A win here for Rovers would see Stephen Bradley’s men go seven points clear while defeat for Derry may raise questions about the direction of the Candystripes who have so far failed to build on last season’s FAI Cup triumph.
Having made such a slow start to the season (winless after 6), Derry City failed to fully capitilse on the Hoops early season sluggishness and that was always likely to prove costly given the quality in the Rovers squad. It was roles reversed heading into the mid-season break with Rovers running up three consecutive wins while Derry were winless in four before the recess but did bounce back with a 2-0 win at home to Cork last Friday, albeit a slightly unconvincing performance.
This will be the third meeting of the season between the two title favourites with Derry City making hard work of a 2-1 win in Tallaght against a severely weakened Rovers side early in the season before the Hoops bounced back with a commanding 2-0 win in Derry more recently.
The manner of that result sums up Shamrock Rovers, they are ruthless whereas I look at how Derry have performed at times this season and they appear to lack a little bit of bottle. In the first half of the season, on the rare occasions Rovers did slip up Derry didn’t capitilse. Should Rovers win tonight they’ll be 7 points clear of Derry and I’ve maintained for weeks that even with all of the investment in Derry I can still see Rovers winning the league by double digits again this season (13 points last year).
Even when they play below their best, Rovers look a cut above everyone else in the league and I expect them to throw their weight around this evening against a flakey Derry City side. 19/20 was fantastic value about a Shamrock Rovers win early today but as I expected that price didn’t stand for too long. Even at 17/20 now I’d have no qualms about backing the Champions at that price.