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Airtricity League Premier Division previews

Updated: Friday, 17 May 2013 19:36 | Comments

Shamrock Rovers host Bohemians in RTÉ's televised game
Shamrock Rovers host Bohemians in RTÉ's televised game

Shamrock Rovers v Bohemians

A second Dublin derby for Shamrock Rovers in the space of a week should offer another big test for Trevor Croly’s side.

Live television coverage of Shamrock Rovers v Bohemians from 19:00 on Friday 17 May on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide excluding GB & NI).

The Hoops lifted the first silverware of the season with a massive 7-1 victory over Drogheda in the final of the Setanta Cup at Tallaght Stadium last weekend.

However that was followed up by a scoreless draw with St Patrick’s Athletic and while that is not a bad result in of itself, it was yet another draw for Rovers and saw them pass up another chance to make up ground of the league’s top sides.

It’s a staggering statistic that Croly’s side have won just three of their 13 league games but a lack of cutting edge up front and an inability to score when they’re on top have derailed their title hopes.

Crolly has several injury worries as Pat Sullivan, Mark Quigley and the ever improving Danny Ledwith are all ruled out of the game with hamstring injuries, while Conor Powell has returned to training and will be assessed before the game.

The Rovers boss in expecting a typical tense Dublin derby and said: “Games between Rovers and Bohs are always big games, and usually exciting affairs. I’m sure all the fans are looking forward to the game, and the players are too. The games are coming thick and fast and it seems like every fixture is a big one for us.

“A few of the injuries we have are as a result of fatigue, but there is no effort in getting the players up for a game like this. There should be a good crowd and a good atmosphere on the night, and hopefully we get a positive result to go with that.”

The Gypsies come into this game on the back of two defeats but manager Aaron Callaghan feels his side recent play has deserved more.

“I thought we were the better side against Cork for most of the match. Tommy Dunne said to me after the match they had got out of jail. Against UCD one or two contentious decisions swung the match. Those games turned on slight errors.”

The Gypsies are weakened by the suspension of two of their most consistent performers this season in striker Chris Lyons and defender Roberto Lopes and Callaghan believes his side will have to dig deep to get a result in Tallaght.

“The magnitude of the game speaks for itself, given the past encounters between the sides. But I don’t do the history side of things. Every game is taken on its merits,” said Callaghan. “Shamrock Rovers have shown what they can achieve when they’re on form. If we’re not 100 per cent on the night it’s going to be very difficult.”

While Callaghan may be talking up Rovers chances, the fact remains that the home side have drawn eight league games this season and given the tight nature of derby games, this looks set to be another draw.

Verdict: Draw

Cork City v Bray Wanderers

Cork City will look to make it two wins in a row on Friday night as they welcome Bray Wanderers to Turner’s Cross.

The Rebels saw off Bohemians last time out and also recorded a victory against the Seagulls late last month so they will come into the game with some optimism.

City boss Tommy Dunne said: “It is a tricky game for us. We are expected to win, but Bray are in quite good form at the moment and have nothing to lose. It will be a difficult game but we have to make sure that we play properly. In Bray we were lucky to still be alive at half time, but we played really well in the second half and won the game.”

Kevin Murray and Brian Lenihan have both returned to training, with Murray set to be available for Monday’s EA Sports Cup tie against Wexford.

Neal Horgan is struggling with a knee injury, while Daryl Kavanagh has flu and both are doubts. Darren Dennehy returns after suspension.

Bray will also come into this game a high. The Seagulls followed up a 2-1 victory over fellow strugglers Shelbourne with a scoreless draw at home to champions Sligo Rovers.

Pat Devlin’s men also claimed a 4-1 Leinster Cup victory over Tolka Rovers on Tuesday, but that win came at a price as defender Danny O’Connor picked up an injury in that encounter and is a doubt for the trip to Cork.

O'Connor will receive treatment right up to kick off in the hope he will be able to take his place in the starting eleven, however there is better news elsewhere as defenders Shane O'Connor and Dave Webster who both sat out Tuesday's win are recalled to the squad.

Bray met Cork less than three weeks ago when a late winner from Shane Duggan gave the Rebels all three points as they won a tight game 2-1. Devlin is expecting a similarly close encounter this time out, but hopes his side can prevail.

“We only played a couple of weeks ago and we are very familiar with each other, I expect a close game and we hope to give a good account of ourselves," the Bray boss said.

Devlin’s optimism may be well placed as Cork have struggled at home and have not won a game at Turner’s Cross since the start of April when they beat UCD for only their second home league win of the season. If Bray can keep it tight at the back, they may be able to snatch a point.

Verdict: Draw

Drogheda United v Derry City

Drogheda come into this game having already erased the memory of last weekend’s Setanta Cup final defeat to Shamrock Rovers.

The Drogs suffered the biggest ever Irish Cup final defeat against Shamrock Rovers when they lost 7-1 in Tallaght but bounced backed immediately with a 1-0 victory at Thomond Park on Tuesday when they beat Limerick.

Next up for Mick Cooke’s men is a tricky looking home tie against title chasing Derry who they have already played three times this season. The Drogs got the better of Derry over two legs in the Setanta Cup, winning 3-2 on aggregate while the sides drew 1-1 in a March league encounter.

Cooke is confident his side can claim another positive result this time out and said: ““Friday night is going to be tough, we’ve played each other three times already this season so there is a level of familiarity between the squads.

“Derry will be coming to Drogheda looking to get one over on us. Declan has done a good job at the Brandywell and it's no surprise that they are in the top three. We’ve had a few good results over Derry in our last meetings, but we won’t take any game for granted.”

Stephen Quigley is Drogheda’s only doubt as the defender was taken off with a knock on Tuesday night and will be assessed ahead of the game.

Derry are a team short on form and struggling to kickstart their title challenge. One win from their last four games and defeats to Sligo and UCD have seen them drop off the pace, having previously topped the league on goal difference.

The Candystripes are also short several big players and will be without the services of Dermot McCaffery through suspension while Thomas Crawley (groin) Paddy Kavanagh (hamstring) Ruaidhri Higgins (groin) are out through Injury.

Manager Declan Devine expects a tough game and said: I was in Limerick on Tuesday evening to see Drogheda and I thought they were very good indeed. Obviously after their loss to Shamrock Rovers in the Setanta Sports Cup final Mick Cooke made a lot of changes to their side and they seemed to work as they played very well.

Devine is hoping that his side’s poor recent record will count for naught and added: “As far as recent records are concerned they go out the window as soon as the take to the pitch and we will as always prepare to try and win what we have no doubt will be a very physical battle on Friday evening."

However the Drogs have already shown this season that they know how to beat Derry and another victory for the home side looks to be a distinct possibility.

Verdict: Drogheda

UCD v Limerick

The signs of a UCD revival are becoming easier and easier to see and a team that looked to be relegation fodder in the early stages of the season is really starting to string some results together.

With just one point from their opening eight games, things were looking grim for the Students, however a run of three victories in their last four games have seen them shoot up the table and will give Martin Russell’s men real heart.

Last Friday’s 4-2 victory away to Derry may well prove to be a turning point in their season and Russell hopes his side use it as a platform going into the game with Limerick.

“I cannot praise our group of players enough for their efforts of late. Considering the difficulties we have faced in relation to injuries, illnesses and exams there has been a great togetherness demonstrated by our players, this has resulted in some splendid results. It’s something we hope to carry into the Limerick game,” the UCD boss said.

Russell will be without the injured duo of Ger Barron and Mick Leahy but otherwise has a full squad from which to choose.

Limerick have settled well into life in the top flight after last season’s promotion but are struggling for consistency.

Stuart Taylor’s men have too often been unable to string back-to-back results and while they sit comfortably mid-table, they haven’t yet been able to put any real pressure on the leaders.

Impressive going forward, with the likes of midfielder Shane Tracy and front-man Axel Bossekta a real threat, it’s at the back where Taylor’s men have looked suspect with just three clean sheets this season.

The Limerick boss has no new injury worries and looks set to have a full squad from which to choose against the Students, but he is expecting a close game against a team in form.

“It will be a very difficult game, they are after some excellent results and we will have to be at our best against a very good, well managed footballing team like UCD,” he said.

This is a tough game to call with a draw being a real possibility, but there’s a nagging feeling that UCD have the impetus and will extend their winning streak with another victory here.

Verdict: UCD

Shelbourne v St Pat’s

Managerless Shelbourne will be clinging to the notion that form can go out the window in derby games as they prepare to welcome high-flying St Pat’s to Tolka Park.

Rooted to the bottom of the table, with just one win from their 13 league games, and having just parted company with manager Alan Mathews Shelbourne can’t even really take heart from that victory coming as it did against fellow strugglers UCD.

A 1-0 defeat last time out to Dundalk may have been cruel as it was a 87th minute goal that decided the game but they were again architects of their own downfall as Brian Shortall’s red card on 78 minutes was the game’s turning point.

Shortall will be suspended for this game as will Robert Bayly as the hosts continue to be troubled by their poor discipline record.

There are big concerns elsewhere as a lengthy injury list further reduces Shels’ options. Definitely out are Glenn Cronin (ankle), Adam Hanlon (calf), Paul Crowley (hip), Stephen Hurley (quad), Dean Kelly (groin) and goalkeeper Niall Burdon (hamstring).

Also doubtful are Robert Cornwall (foot), Craig Mooney and Mark Leech (groin), who continue to receive treatment and decisions on their fitness will be taken closer to kick-off time.

At the opposite end of the table St Pat’s know that a win will take them level on points with league leaders Sligo for at least 24 hours.

Liam Buckley’s men are in a rich vein of form that has taken them to within touching distance of the summit and are unbeaten since the start of April.

Buckley acknowledged that is a big game for both side, albeit for vastly contrasting reasons. “Both sides know a positive result will be push them up the table from their respective positions so it will definitely be a very committed game,” he said.

“Tolka Park though is a ground that our fans love going to as Pats and Shels has always been a great rivalry. The games between the sides last year were always very tight so I don’t expect to be very different come kick-off time on Friday.”

The visitors have no injury worries at all, although Anto Flood is a slight doubt having suffered a bout of illness during the week.

With eight clean sheets from their 13 league games and having won their last five away games on the bounce, the Saints look odds-on to extend that run and take all three points from Tolka.

Verdict: St Pat’s

AIRTRICITY LEAGUE

Live television coverage of Shamrock Rovers v Bohemians from 19:00 on Friday 17 May on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide excluding GB & NI).

Highlights and analysis of all the weekend’s action on MNS from 7pm on Monday 20 May on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide).

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