By Rob Wright
Bohemians v Derry City
Coming into this game on the back of a 1-0 Dublin derby victory over Shelbourne, Aaron Callaghan’s men will still have it all to do against a Derry team in a rich vein of form.
With just one goal in their last three games, the Gypsies have been struggling to find a cutting edge so far this season and despite playing some impressive possession football at times, they’ve seen games go away from them due to lack of goalscoring opportunities.
At the other end of the pitch, Bohemians have been solid and against Shelbourne did well to hang on to a one-goal lead for 85 minutes.
Callaghan will be without the services of Michael Barker who picked up an ankle injury in training, while Owen Heary (knee) and Chris Lyons (ankle) remain sidelined.
The Bohemians manager is wary of the threat that Derry will offer, saying: ”They will be coming to us full of confidence. They have had a good start to the season. We have to make sure our preparation is right and we have to concentrate on our own performance, and make sure we don’t make those errors that cost us against Sligo.”
Unlike Bohemians, Derry have had no problems in front of goal. With fourteen goals from their opening six games, they look to be the only side in the league that are capable of keeping pace with champions Sligo Rovers at the moment.
With only an opening day defeat to Sligo to blot their record, the Candystripes are in a rich vein of form and will hope to extend that run at Dalymount. Derry have a bit of a hoodoo over the Gypsies since 2009, beating them six times and drawing once, and manager Declan Devine is confident his side can made it seven.
"We are really looking forward to heading down to Dublin. We have played very well away from home this season and I’m very pleased from that point of view. The team has been playing at a great tempo and creating lots of chances," the Derry boss said.
"We’re full of confidence and hopefully we will be able to show people who haven’t seen us so far this season that we are playing some good attractive football."
Stewart Greacen (knee) and Sean Houston (hamstring) will both be unavailable for Derry.
Devine will be hoping that top goalscorer Rory Patterson is fit enough to make the trip to Dublin as they continue to monitor his fitness. However, even should he fail to make the trip the Candystripes have a ready-made replacement in close-season signing Michael Rafter, who has three goals in his last two games.
Even without Patterson, Derry should have enough to break down a well-organised Bohemians side lacking a cutting edge of their own.
Bray Wanderers v St Patrick’s Athletic
After a winning start to the season, Bray have suffered a dip in form and will be hoping to kick-start things at home to St Patrick’s Athletic.
A 1-0 win against Shelbourne on the opening day of the season has been as good as it gets so far for the Seagulls, who have suffered defeat at the hands of Derry and Drogheda, and have also been the only team to play UCD that didn’t beat them.
Scoring appears to be director of football Pat Devlin’s biggest problem, with just four goals from five games and the Seagulls are again relying on veteran striker Jason Byrne to carry their threat.
Couple that with a leaky defence that has shipped at least two goals in each of their last four games, and it's easy to see why Wanderers have been struggling.
Devlin will be able to welcome back goalkeeper Darren Quigley, who missed his side’s 2-0 defeat in Derry on Monday after he picked up a suspension for a red card in last Friday’s clash with UCD.
The Bray boss has doubts about over the fitness of Adam Mitchell (knee) and Kevin O'Connor (hamstring), and no decision on their availability will be made until just before kick-off.
St Pat's have endured a stop-start beginning to the season after seeing two games postponed due a water-logged pitch.
An opening day victory over Drogheda was followed up by a 3-0 reversal in Tallaght against Shamrock Rovers. They then had to endure a two-week spell without a game and may only now be catching up in terms of match fitness with the rest of the league.
Liam Buckley's men were edged out 2-1 by Dundalk on Tuesday in a game in which they made some sloppy mistakes and displayed a lack of concentration.
Buckley is expecting a response from his players and said: "We weren’t happy with the way things ended up on Tuesday against Dundalk, so we’ll all be aiming to improve on that this Friday against Bray."
The Saints are without Shane McFaul, whose groin injury ensures another week on the sidelines, but aside from that, they have a clean bill of health. Against a struggling Bray side, they should be able to get things back on track with their third win of the season
Verdict: St Pat's
Cork City v UCD
Cork come into this game still feeling aggrieved at the manner in which they were denied victory against Drogheda on Monday night.
A penalty with three minutes left on the clock denied Cork a second win of the season, but against UCD they should be able to make amends for that disappointment.
Midfielder Shane Duggan is eager to start turning draws into wins, and against his former side UCD, he believes the Rebels can do just that.
"It was heartbreaking to be honest for it to happen in three games,” Duggan said.
“It would have been a great three points to get in Tallaght or in Drogheda but it wasn’t to be and we just need to start turning those draws into wins now."
UCD are already rooted to the bottom of the Airtricity League Premier Division table and have just a single point to their name after suffering a dreadful start to the season that has seen them lose five and draw just one game.
The Students only point came against a ten-man Bray Wanderers side and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see just where their first win of the season is going to come from.
Manager Martin Russell in without the services of the injured trio of Robbie Benson, Mick Leahy and Dean Clarke.
Russell again expects his side to be sorely tested when they travel to Cork but he remains optimistic that the Students can take something from Turner’s Cross.
“Turner's Cross is a ground that every young player should relish playing in and this is another opportunity for our players to develop,” he said.
“There is no doubt that Cork have strengthened their squad again this season and but for conceding some late goals they would be even higher in the table. It is going to be a test, and one that we are looking forward to.”
Despite Russell’s optimism, his side continue to struggle and look out of their depth. In the past a blend of youth and experience has seem them comfortably claim a mid-table position but the older, more experienced heads are missing this season.
If there is a crumb of comfort for UCD to cling to, it’s the fact that they took six points from Cork last season, but that’s extremely unlikely to happen again this term.
Dundalk v Limerick
Dundalk have been the surprise package of the season thus far. Sitting comfortably in third place and only suffering defeat to Sligo, manager Stephen Kenny has made an immediate impact at Oriel Park.
The Lilywhites have won three games on the road and are now seeking to bring that kind of form home as they continue to chase their first home win of the season.
Kenny himself is eager to give the home fans something to cheer and said: "Our away form has been outstanding. Our performances at home have been very good but we just haven’t got the results I feel we deserved in Oriel Park.
"Limerick are a good team. I went to see them last weekend against Pat’s and I thought they were excellent. They have a good manager, a formidable squad of full-time professionals so we know we are going to have to be on our game if we are to get anything from the game.
"All the games are tough but Limerick are a very good side, technically so we’re looking forward to the test."
The home side have no new injury worries and captain Stephen O’Donnell is close to a return from injury although this game may come a bit too soon for him. John Mountney has recovered from a head injury and is available for selection.
Limerick have settled into life in the domestic topflight well, making the most of their new surrounds at Thomond Park, but with two defeats and a draw in their last three games, you get the sense that the honeymoon may be over.
Stuart Taylor has a full squad to pick from the trip to Oriel Park, although Robbie Williams, who returned to training during the week, may still be lacking match fitness.
Taylor's expecting a big game from the hosts and said: "We have another tough game Friday night away to Dundalk. They have had an excellent start to the season and their manager Stephen Kenny has them playing good football.
"I know a lot of the Dundalk team and they are a very strong unit and we will need to be at our best to get a result. We are really looking forward to the challenge."
Dundalk will certainly provide the challenge that Taylor is anticipating and it may well be one that the visitors are unable to overcome.
Shamrock Rovers v Drogheda
Statistics can be always be twisted when it comes to football. You could, for example, point out the fact that Shamrock Rovers are unbeaten this season and that they’ve conceded just two goals in the league thus far.
Far more relevant is the fact that they have managed to win just one league game this season and they are already ten points behind champions Sligo Rovers.
The league title is the be-all and end-all for Rovers fans and already at this early stage there will be plenty of concern about the widening gap between their side and Sligo. Not known for their patience either, manager Trevor Crolly knows that his side have to start winning and start winning now to get the Tallaght crowd onside.
Against a Drogheda side with a similar record to Rovers – the visitors have one less draw and one more defeat – Crolly knows this is as close to a ‘must-win’ game as there is this early in the season.
Defenders Jason McGuinness (hamstring) and David Elebert (groin) look set to miss out again through injury and Ken Oman is suspended, but Rovers problems have been up front this season.
Still struggling to replace the goals of Gary Twigg and waiting for Mark Quigley to show the kind of form that helped Sligo claim the title last year, Rovers are desperate for goals.
For his part, Drogheda manager Mick Cooke is helping to ramp up the pressure on Crolly and Rovers and is hoping his side can benefit from it.
"There are big expectations on Rovers and there is a certain amount of pressure on Trevor at the moment, but this will not make it in any way easier for us," he said.
"Rovers haven't been getting the results they would like, but that only means they are going to be trying harder. We haven't been getting the results we would like also, so it should make for an interesting game.
"I don't think we have been playing as well as we should be and certainly in the final third where we need to improve. But the lads know this and they are working hard every week and it will come good for us soon enough."
Cook will be without Michael Daly, who has a trapped nerve in leg and will be out for a few weeks, while Cathal Brady is out having suffered a re-occurrence of his calf strain.
However, there is a boost for the Drogheda manager elsewhere, as Alan Byrne returns to the squad following a one-match suspension.
With Rovers and Drogheda having drawn nine of the 12 games they’ve played between them this season, the temptation to predict another draw is big, but this could be the game where Rovers finally click and give their season the boost it needs.
Verdict: Shamrock Rovers