After a week off to mark the halfway point of the season, Airtricity League action returns to grounds around the country on Friday. Matters are tight at both ends of the table as St. Pat’s look to bounce back from their 2-1 loss to Dundalk two weeks ago while, at the foot of the league, Shelbourne will be looking to kick on from their 3-0 victory over Bohemians on the same night.
Derry City vs. Bohemians
The first match up for examination this week is Derry City-v-Bohemians. Derry are sitting pretty in second place, just three points behind Pat’s with a game in hand. With wins in their last two league games they will be looking to make it three in a row. However, their home form has been a bit shaky recently, as they only managed a draw with Cork and a defeat to UCD in their last two games in The Brandywell. Their opponents this week are fast becoming serious relegation candidates. Bohs were outplayed by bottom club Shels two weeks ago and with Owen Heary, Dave Mulcahy and Derek Pender out of action this week they will find this game very difficult. Derry should win this and put more pressure on Pat’s. The Candystripes are at 1/3.
Drogheda United vs. Shamrock Rovers
Next up we have Drogheda United-v-Shamrock Rovers. The home side come into this game with five defeats in their last six league games and will be hoping that the break has allowed their players to recharge and get their season back on track. The Drogs are without four players due to suspension this week, Alan Byrne, Alan McNally, Ryan Brennan and David Cassidy, while Philip Hand misses out with injury. As for Rovers, Trevor Croly has a virtually full squad of players to choose from on Friday night with David Elebert being the only being the only absentee through injury. The Hoops have won their last three league games in a row and are currently on a ten game unbeaten streak. With Drogheda perhaps having one eye on their Europa League qualifier with Malmo on Thursday one has to expect Rovers to win this. The Tallaght side are 4/5.
St Patrick’s Athletic vs. Bray Wanderers
The third game we have this week is that of top of the table St Patrick’s Athletic-v-Bray Wanderers. Before their defeat to Dundalk two weeks ago The Saints had won their last four league games in a row without conceding a goal. Pat’s are without Killian Brennan due to suspension and have also recently sold Jake Carroll to Huddersfield Town. Bray have put together a decent run of results recently to help them pull away from the danger zone at the bottom of the league table. With 10 points from a possible 15 in their last five games The Seagulls look threatening. However, Pat’s will be fired up to put their defeat to Dundalk behind them and should claim the three points here. They are at 1/3.
UCD vs. Cork City
Eleventh placed UCD will take on Cork City in the Belfield Bowl on Friday in a game that they will hope can pull them further away from the foot of the table, and perhaps out of the relegation playoff spot. The Students go into this game without the services of Thomas Boyle or captain Mick Leahy. Having lost their last three league games in a row it’s hard to see the Belfield side getting anything from this game. However, with the topsy-turvy sort of season Cork are having, anything is possible, especially with five players (Dan Murray, Kevin Murray, Colin Healy, Brian Lenihan, Danny Morrissey) missing due to injury. Don’t be surprised if this one ends in a draw. Which is at 12/5.
Shelbourne vs. Sligo Rovers
Having had a fairly abysmal first 16 league games this season, Shelbourne finally looked to hit a bit of form with an impressive 3-0 win over Bohemians in Dalymount Park two weeks ago. New manager Johnny McDonnell seems to have injected fresh life into The Reds side and will be hopeful they could sneak something against the Champions this week. Shels will be feeling confident after hearing that Sligo will be without at least five players for the clash in Tolka Park. Anthony Elding is suspended, while Raffaele Cretaro, Evan McMillan and Danny Ventre miss out with injuries. Pascal Millien is away on international duty with Haiti. Although Shels will be feeling upbeat going into this game Sligo should just have the edge over them and claim the three points. The Bit O’Red are 1/2 to win this one.
Limerick vs. Dundalk
Finally this week we have the match-up of Limerick and Dundalk on Saturday evening in Thomond Park. Limerick have quietly gone about their business this season and sit nicely in seventh spot at the moment. This week they find themselves up against a Dundalk side fresh off a victory over the league leaders and looking to push on and secure a European spot. Limerick are without five players this week (Pat Purcell and Steven McGann are both injured while Stephen Bradley and Jeffrey Judge are suspended). Aaron Brown has also recently been released by the Munster side. As of the time of writing there was no Dundalk team news. These two sides look impossible to split so I’m going for a draw which you can get at 21/10.