By Rob Wright
Drogheda United v Bray Wanderers
Drogheda United will be chasing their first win of the season when they host Bray Wanderers on Sunday afternoon.
With two draws from their opening three games, including a 2-2 draw with Limerick in which their opponents finished with nine men, Mick Cooke’s men will be eager to get their first three points under their belt.
They’ll have to do so without the services of several first-team players as Cooke continues to wrestle with a lengthy injury list.
Michael Daly picked up a dead leg in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Derry and will be out for this game, while David Cassidy is suffering with flu and is a doubt.
Drogheda are already without Alan McNally and Gary O’Neill, while Derek Prendergast continues to recover from an ankle injury.
Cooke is expecting an entertaining game with the Seagulls but is confident his side can get the better of Pat Devlin’s team.
“The lads showed a lot of fight to get back into the game against Derry, we dominated the last 30 minutes and we are showing the resilience we had last year,” said Cooke.
“I'm looking forward to the game against Bray, they are a well organised side but we always manage to produce entertaining games. We both like to play free-flowing football and I think we put on a good show for the fans.
“Pat Devlin has managed to get Gary Dempsey back and he will be a major player for them and he's done well to hold on to Kieran Marty Waters.
"Anytime I've gone to see Bray, watching him alone is worth the entrance fee - he's an exciting talent. So far, we have had two draws and a defeat and we will of course be hoping to register our first win on Sunday.”
With their game against Cork City on Tuesday postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, Bray will be looking to add to their opening-day win over Shelbourne.
They will have to do so without defenders Adam Mitchell (knee) and Shane O’Connor (hamstring), but otherwise Bray have no injury worries and will have the same squad on duty as travelled last weekend to Sligo.
That game against Sligo saw Bray put in a solid display.
Despite trailing to a first-half goal from Anthony Elding, the Seagulls really took the game to the champions and it wasn’t until the dying minutes that Sligo were able to kill them off.
Bray Director of Football Pat Devlin was pleased with that display in Sligo and is looking for something similar for 90 minutes on Sunday.
Devlin said: "We know it will be tough it's always a tough game against Drogheda and we are looking forward to it."
If his side can produce that kind of form for a full game, they’ll be a big threat to Drogheda but consistency has been a problem for Bray over the last few seasons and if they slip up in any way on Sunday the home side should claim their first win of the season.
Cork City v Derry City
Cork City are aiming to continue their unbeaten start to the league when they take on a Derry City side who have shown promising signs so far this season.
Derry have had a mixed start to the season, beginning with a narrow defeat to Sligo Rovers before a stunning 6-0 win away to UCD.
As City returned to Leeside after their trip to the Carlisle Grounds was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, Derry were playing out a 1-1 draw with Drogheda United at the Brandywell.
Cork manager Tommy Dunne will have to plan without Brian Lenihan, who remains sidelined as he continues his recovery from a groin injury.
Dunne also has doubts over the question marks over Daryl Horgan (hamstring strain), who has been the driving force behind Cork so far this season, and Neal Horgan, who is carrying a knee injury.
The Cork manager admits that it’s a big game for his side but is confident that they can emerge with all three points.
“Derry have a strong group and have shown that already. They will, justifiably, be one of the teams that will be earmarked as potential title contenders,” said Dunne.
“I think, at home, we can give anybody a match with the crowd behind us. It is important that we perform well, and I do not see any reason why we cannot pick up the three points.”
Derry boss Decline Devine is equally confident and insists that his side travel with no fear.
“We're not going down there with any fear and it's an opportunity to test ourselves. We've played well so far and created a lot of chances so we will take the positives out of that,” Devine told the BBC.
Devine makes the trip to Turners Cross with several injury concerns. Kevin Deery and Brian McNamee must undergo late fitness tests on a swollen knee and foot injury respectively.
Dermot McCaffrey and Paddy Kavanagh are both believed to be a week away from making a return to the squad, but Sean Houston and Patrick McEleney will both be included.
Despite their injury list, it’s been a decent start to the season for Derry. They were just edged out by Sligo Rovers on the first day of the season before inflicting that thumping on bottom side UCD.
A draw with Drogheda last time out was perhaps unfair on the Candystripes as Drogs goalkeeper Gabriel Sava turned in a man-of-the-match display.
If Derry can turn in a similar performance against Cork, they should be able to leave Turner’s Cross with all three points.
Shelbourne v Shamrock Rovers
Sunday’s Dublin derby between Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers will be broadcast live on RTÉ Two with coverage starting from 3.50pm.
The home side will be hoping that the rain eases off in time for the game, having already missed out on a match this week when Tuesday’s clash with St Patrick’s Athletic was postponed due to a waterlogged Richmond Park.
Tolka hasn’t been immune to the elements in the past and both officials and supporters alike will be keeping a close eye on the weather forecast.
Shels go into the game still in search of their first point of the season after being edged out 1-0 by Bray on the first day of the season before losing 3-1 to Dundalk at Tolka Park.
Both those games turned on a red card for Shelbourne, and manager Alan Matthews will be stressing the importance of his side keeping their discipline against their Dublin rivals.
Due to the postponement of the St Pat's game, Paul Crowley and Graham Gartland will now miss the clash with Rovers game due to suspension. But, elsewhere, it’s good news for Matthews, who has a fully fit squad with Ger Hanley and Glenn Cronin returning from injury.
For Rovers, while this may not be a must-win game, defeat could see them lose further ground to Sligo, who have made a fine start to the season and hold a four-point lead before this weekend’s action.
Having had Derek Foran sent-off, the Hoops had to settle for a dull 0-0 draw against fierce Dublin rivals Bohemians on bank holiday Monday, in a game played on a dreadful Dalymount pitch.
Rovers boss Trevor Crolly is keen for his side to put that game behind them, and said: “Last Monday against Bohs was a difficult one for us in very tricky conditions. But I thought the team showed a lot of character to come out of Dalymount with a result considering how the match went.
"We had to make a lot of changes during the game and the players did well despite having to play in various positions because of both Derek Foran’s sending off and Jason McGuinness’s injury.
“That is behind us now and, while we have a few missing on Sunday, we’re looking forward to the Shels game and hopefully getting a good result.”
Foran is suspended for the trip to Tolka as a result of his red card, while Jason McGuinness suffered a hamstring injury against the Gypsies and is also missing, as is David Elebert, who has a groin injury.
Rovers face the very real prospect of trailing Sligo by seven points by the time this game kicks off and will not be able to afford to let such a big gap build up this early in the season.
Crolly’s men have yet to click fully this season but a Dublin derby against a Shelbourne side still in search of their first point offers them the perfect opportunity to do so.
Verdict: Shamrock Rovers