Limerick v Sligo Rovers - 7.05pm
A big crowd is expected for Sligo Rovers first trip to Thomond Park in a game that will be broadcast live on RTÉ Two.
Live television coverage of Limerick v Sligo Rovers from 19:00 on on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide excluding GB & NI).
Twelve points separate the two sides but both have suffered from some pretty indifferent recent league form with both Sligo and Limerick having just one win to their name from their last five league games.
An EA Sports encounter with Waterford which went to extra-time and then penalties before Limerick prevailed 4-2 may offer a moral boost for Stuart Taylor’s men but there were plenty of tired legs after that game.
Limerick were held to a 1-1 draw by UCD last time out in the league - a game in which centre back Pat Purcell picked up an injury that will rule him out of this encounter. Steven McCann is out too as he continues to recover from a broken foot.
Taylor has other injury concerns and Dave O’Leary, Brian O’Callaghan, Aaron Brown, Shaun Kelly, Shane Costelloe and Barry Ryan are all doubtful for tomorrow’s game and will undergo late fitness tests.
While it may be too early to call it an injury crisis, Taylor certainly has some selection problems and will be hoping for some positive news from those fitness tests.
Visitors Sligo will come into this game much fresher having had last Saturday's league game with Dundalk postponed due to a waterlogged surface at the Showgrounds. They cruised to a 4-0 victory over Mervue in the EA Sports Cup on Monday, with Anthony Elding claiming a brace.
Elding now has 13 games in 16 games and looks set to lead the line against Limerick at Thomond.
While Limerick have injury worries, Sligo boss Ian Baraclough has a wealth of options to chose from as Gavin Peers and David Cawley return from suspension. Ciaran Kelly and Seamus Conneely are back in the squad after recovering from a fractured sternum and knee surgery respectively.
Baraclough will be without the services of defender Evan McMillan for up to five weeks however after he underwent a minor knee operation on Monday.
The Sligo boss is expecting a tough challenge from Limerick and said: “Limerick are a good footballing side, they have a strong back four, some excellent midfield players and strikers that don’t give you a moment’s peace. Combine the three and it means a tough task for any side.
“Any promoted club will always take time to get to the level they desire and Limerick are knocking on the door of the top half of the table already. Stuart has come in late in the day and put together a group of players that are improving all the time and will continue to do so as the season goes on.”
While Baraclough’s assessment of Limerick’s progress this season is accurate, his side hold all the cards going into this game. Even if the homeside were fresh and had a full squad from which to chose, Sligo would be the favourites. As it stands it’s difficult the see anything but an away win.
Bohemians v St Patrick’s Athletic, 7.45pm
It’s another Dublin derby for the Gypsies as they host high-flying St Patrick’s Athletic who could conceivably go top of the Airtricity Premier League with a victory in Dalymount.
Moral will be high around Dalymount way. A late equaliser to earn a point against arch-rivals Shamrock Rovers last Friday was followed up by a 4-2 injury time victory over Bray Wanderers in the EA Sports Cup.
Bohemians captain Owen Heary (hip) and Conor O’Brien (illness) are out, as is Keith Buckley (suspended), however Stephen Traynor is back having missed the trip to Tallaght last week.
The Gypsies are still trying to find some real consistency under manager Aaron Callaghan this season and are without a league win since the end of April when it was Bray Wanderers who they got the better of.
One the other end of the scale, St Pat’s are the form team in the league. Unbeaten in 11 games, they have steadily climbed the league table and go into this game level on points with champions Sligo Rovers, albeit having played an extra match.
The Saints are also unbeaten in Dalymount since 2009, but following a 1-1 draw with Bohemians last month in Richmond Park, Liam Buckley is expecting a tough game.
“We’re in the middle of this long run of Dublin derbies so each game is a challenge. The game against Bohs a few weeks back was very tough and I’m sure Aaron will have his side set up to cause us problems again,” Buckley said to stpatsfc.com.
“They played very well against Shamrock Rovers last week and got a point late on so we know we’ll have to be at it for the full 90 minutes to get a result in Dalymount.”
Buckley has a full squad to choose from after Anto Flood made his return to action from illness in the 3-2 win after extra time over Salthill Devon last Monday in the EA Sports Cup.
It may not be a high-scoring encounter - nine of the last ten league games between Bohemians and Pats have been drawn or decided by a single goal either way. However, St Pat’s are unbeaten in the last eight encounters between the sides and given their current form, they should extend that run with a victory.
Verdict: St Pat’s
Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United, 7.45pm
Bray Wanderers can make an argument for being the form side in the league at the moment. After winning their opening game against Shelbourne they embarked on a dreadful run which saw them go ten games without a win.
However Director of Football Pat Devlin has stuck to his principles and another league win against Shelbourne kick-started a run that has seen Bray win three of their last four league games. Only a draw against Sligo has blotted a run that has seen them put some daylight between themselves and bottom side Shels.
A 4-2 EA Sports Cup defeat to Bohemians in extra-time last time out won’t overly concern Devlin, whose main objective will be to secure top flight football for next year and against Drogheda they have a real chance to continue their solid form.
The Seagulls are further boosted by the return of midfielder Kevin O'Connor who has been missing for over six weeks with a hamstring injury is. O’Connor’s brother Kevin a doubt picking up a knock in his sides extra time defeat against Bohemians.
Adam Mitchell who was an ever present last season and who has yet to play this term could make a return to the squad after his return to training three weeks ago.
Mick Cooke’s Drogheda may well feel that they have not been getting the result their player deserves and it was the same again last Friday when they were beaten by a late Rory Patterson goal against title challenging Derry City last week.
The Drogs put the disappointment of that defeat firmly behind them on Monday when they cruised to a 6-0 victory over Longford Town in the EA Sport Cup and will be hoping to build on that result in Bray.
Declan O’Brien, who came off the bench against Derry to score a quick-fire brace will be pushing for a starting spot but manager Mick Cooke does not have any new injury concerns.
For Cooke the challenge is to stop his side conceding from free-kicks and corners, but if his side are unable to do so against Bray they may well find themselves on the wrong end of the result.
Derry City v Cork City, 7.45pm
Just one point off the top, Derry will be looking to claim all three points to keep up the pressure on pace-setting Sligo Rovers and second placed St Pat’s.
Declan Devine’s men left it late to snatch a 3-2 victory over Drogheda last week and could only beat First Division side Finn Harps on penalties in the EA Sports Cup on Monday but Devine remains bullish.
"It will be a tough game but if we play to our potential we are capable of winning it - I fancy us against anyone this year," he told the BBC.
"Cork's away form has been good, they have a very good record at the Brandywell and they possess a lot of very good players. However, we carry a lot of goals, we're showing tremendous character and I'm looking forward to watching this team play on Friday night."
Despite Devine’s confidence Cork will offer a stern challenge to Derry. The Candystripes have shipped plenty of goals this season and have gone eight games without keeping clean sheet.
The Derry boss is boosted by the return of Ryan McBride, Kevin Deery, Barry Molloy but question marks remain over the fitness of Michael Rafter.
Cork had a much easier route than Derry into the next round of the EA Sports Cup, cruising to a 4-0 win over Wexford Youths, which may have gone some way to erase the memories of last Friday’s shock defeat to Bray.
Darren Dennehy returns from suspension and Neale Horgan is available after injury but Kevin Murray (groin), Denis Behan (knee) and Dan Murray (work commitments) are out while Danny Furlong (ankle) is a major doubt.
Cork boss Tommy Dunne admits his side will be tested by Derry but believes they can come away with a result. “Derry is always a tough place to go, they are playing really, really well at the moment and we know that we have a bit to do to get a result there,” he told Corkcityfc.net.
“I have to say that we need to get a result because when you lose home games like we have, then you need to pick points up on the road. Derry is a difficult place to do that, but I have no doubt that if there’s one team that can get a result in the Brandywell, then it’s us.”
While they beat Cork earlier in the season it’s been twelve years since Derry recorded back-to-back wins over Cork, who have impressed away from Turner’s Cross this season. Expect the visitors to take a point away from the Brandywell.
Dundalk v UCD, 7.45pm
Dundalk return to top flight action on Friday after a two week enforced break when they welcome UCD to Oriel Park.
The postponement of the match against Sligo Rovers last Saturday due to a waterlogged pitch, gave them an unexpected break Dundalk should be fresh when they welcome UCD to Oriel Park
The Lilywhites warmed up for their first league outing in a fortnight with a narrow defeat to Shamrock Rovers in the EA Sports Cup, but they’ve been going well in the league and have the chance to keep up the pressure on the top three with a win against the Student.
With five victories from their last five league games, Dundalk have quietly been going about their business, racking up points and moving up to fourth in the table. Manager Stephen Kenny has put together a tidy unit of a team that don’t give up goals easily – conceding just one in that five game spell.
Kenny will again be without Chris Shields who has a knee problem. Shields is Dundalk’s only absentee as Mark Rossiter is fully fit again after his knee trouble and Kenny is expected to turn to those players he rested on Tuesday night.
The Students are in their best form of the season and without the distraction of the EA Sports Cup, have had the week to focus on this fixture.
A win against Bohemians, followed by a shock 4-2 victory away to Bray and a draw with Limerick has seen UCD put some distance between themselves and bottom side Shelbourne and manager Martin Russell will be hoping his side can build on those results.
The UCD boss will have to cope without several first team players however as Mick Leahy, Robbie Creevy, Tomas Boyle, Sean Russell and Ger Barron are all sidelined through injury.
Despite this injury list, Russell believes his side can leave Dundalk with a result. "Dundalk have equipped themselves with a competitive squad and Stephen has them organised. We want to keep our unbeaten run going so go up to Oriel Park with a real desire, looking to come away with a good performance and three points.”
However Russell may be overly optimistic in thinking his side can claim a victory against a rapidly improving Dundalk side who have become increasingly difficult to score against. A home win looks to be on the cards against the Students.
Shamrock Rovers v Shelbourne, 8.00pm
It’s another Dublin derby for Shamrock Rovers who will be desperate to start turning their drawn games into victories.
A 1-0 EA Sports Cup victory over Dundalk was a good start for Trevor Crolly’s men but the draws against Bohemians and St Pat’s in their last two league games have seen them lose further ground on the leading pack.
The Hoops will expect to claim all three points against a team that have become the league’s whipping boys but they were held to a scoreless draw by Shels earlier in the season and the longer they go without scoring tonight, they trickier things could get.
An early goal will be essential for the Hoops and Crolly will set up his men to attack from the off.
“Having played Shelbourne earlier in the season, and watched them recently, we know what we have to do in this game. We will need to pass the ball well and move it quickly. If we don’t do that, we will be left sniffing out chances and that’s not what we want,” the Rovers boss said.
“We will be looking to get on top early in the game. It’s a Dublin derby and there should be a good crowd and a good atmosphere on the night, and we’ll be looking to make the most of that,” Crolly added.
Pat Sullivan, Danny Ledwith and Mark Quigley are all ruled out of the game with hamstring injuries, while Derek Foran is a doubt with a bruised foot and will be assessed ahead of the game. There is some good news for Rovers however as Conor Powell is available again.
For the visitors, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Without a manager since the resignation or Alan Matthews they’re rooted to the bottom of the table with just one victory all season.
That win came at the start of the month against UCD but any hopes of a revival faded swiftly and they’ve lost their last three consecutive games.
Kevin Doherty continues as interim manager and he has several injury concerns. Definitely sidelined are Glenn Cronin (ankle) and Paul Crowley (hip).
Adam Hanlon (calf), Stephen Hurley (groin), Dean Kelly (groin), Philly Hughes (shin), Sean Brennan (shin) and goalkeeper Niall Burdon (hamstring) are all doubtful. Jack Memery and Brian Shortall are both suspended also.
As inconsistent as Rovers have been this season, this game represents the perfect opportunity for them to add to their meagre three league wins, which they should do.
Verdict: Shamrock Rovers