By Ed Leahy
League champions Sligo Rovers travel to Dalymount Park for tonight’s Airtricity League Premier Division clash with Bohemians, kick-off 7:05pm.
The Phibsboro clash is Sligo’s first trip to Dublin this season and they will be confident of maintaining their 100%t start to the season after picking up seven points from the three games with Bohemians last season.
But Ian Baraclough’s side may not have it all their own way at the Dublin venue as they will have to battle against a very well-organised and hard-working Bohs side, as well as a pitch that is far from conducive to the free-flowing football that the visitors will endeavour to pursue.
The normally carpet-like Dalymount pitch was in a shocking state for the clash with Shamrock Rovers on 18 March and the weather has actually been worse since that clash so the long studs may be needed for tonight’s encounter.
With four wins from four, Sligo have already made their intentions clear as they attempt to defend their title, and they have opened up a four-point gap at the top of the table.
And it could be argued that Baraclough’s side have yet to hit top gear, which is a dangerous sign to the rest of the league as the champions are winning matches without playing well.
But the Bit O'Red are well able to mix it in difficult conditions and should still have enough to overcome tonight’s hosts who are just lacking the class to compete at the top level.
Danny North and Joseph Ndo remain out with knee and hand injuries respectively for the visitors, while Danny Ventre is still recovering from a leg injury.
Gavin Peers should come back into the starting eleven after missing out on last week’s win over Limerick and it will be interesting to see who the manager drops after Jeff Henderson scored the winner last week.
Bohemians will be anxious to get back in action after their last league game against St Patrick’s Athletic fell foul to the bad weather in the capital over the past seven days.
In fact, the Gypsies haven’t played since that 0-0 draw with Shamrock Rovers almost two weeks ago and manager Aaron Callaghan will be hoping his side can replicate the performance and the result against the unbeaten champions.
Callaghan said: “Sligo have had a great run in the league and they have had a good Setanta Cup so far but we’re looking for a result."
New Gypsies signing Stephen Paisley is fit and available for selection but it might be a surprise to see Callaghan change his back four as they have looked a very competent unit with Owen Heary in the central role.
And Roberto Lopes has also stepped up to the challenge of filling the void since the departure of Evan McMillen, while Dave Mulcahy should add a bit of steel to the midfield as he returns after missing the Rovers clash.
However, Chris Lyons remains out for Bohemians after hurting his ankle against the Hoops, while Shane Fitzgerald has returned to training after an ankle injury.
While the Gypsies competed with Shamrock Rovers in their last home game, they played the majority of the game against 10 men and with the form Sligo have shown so far this season, there can only really be one winner tonight. It might be the pitch but it should be the league champions.
Verdict Sligo Rovers
Live television coverage of Bohemians v Sligo Rovers from 7pm on RTÉ Two and RTE.ie (Worldwide excluding GB & NI). Highlights and analysis of all the weekend’s action on MNS from 7pm on Monday 1 April on RTÉ Two and RTE.ie (Worldwide).
Shamrock Rovers v Cork City
Shamrock Rovers will look to kick-start their season when they take on Cork City at Tallaght Stadium tonight, kick-off 8.00pm.
Rovers centre-half Jason McGuinness remains out with a hamstring problem, while David Elebert is also ruled out as he recovers from a groin injury.
Sean O’Connor and Conor Winn have both been sick this week and are doubtful, while Mark Quigley has a slight ankle problem and is also a doubt.
Hoops boss, Croly said: “It’s nice to be back at home; it feels like we haven’t had a home game in ages as we’ve been playing away in the last few weeks.
“Cork have a very good side this year, with a good blend of youth and experience. They have plenty of players that are used to winning games and winning trophies, and so we know it will be a tough encounter. But I am expecting a good, if hard fought, game on the night.”
After a late penalty gave Derry City all three points at Turner’s Cross last Sunday, Cork City will be looking to get back on track as they travel to face Rovers.
City boss Tommy Dunne said: “It doesn’t get any tougher than going to Tallaght. Rovers have had three draws, so they will be looking to get a win. We are in a similar position after the defeat to Derry which took our unbeaten record from us, so we are looking to bounce back.”
“I don’t see us being under that much pressure going up there, but maybe for Rovers there is a little bit of pressure. Both sides will want to win, so I think it is going to be an interesting game.
Dunne is still without long-term absentee Brian Lenihan, while the knee injury that kept Neal Horgan out of the game against Derry means he is a doubt for the tie.
There is also a doubt over Daryl Horgan who was substituted in the Derry match with a hamstring strain, Dan Murray will definitely miss the tie due to work commitments, but John Dunleavy has recovered from the knock that he picked up against Derry and will be available.
Verdict: Shamrock Rovers
Derry City v Shelbourne
Derry City will welcome Shelbourne to the Brandywell for tonight’s Airtricity League Premier Division clash, kick-off 7.45pm.
Derry will be without the services of Stewart Greacen (knee) Paddy Kavanagh (hamstring) and Kevin Deery (knee).
City boss Declan Devine said: "We had a great result last week in Cork but for that to mean anything we must follow it up this week with a similar performance at home.
“At this moment, I'm delighted with the work rate and application of the entire squad. We have been missing a couple of players due to little knocks and the players that have come in have stepped it up and given their all.
“So far we have only conceded two goals in four games and they have come against last season runners up (Drogheda United) and the current league champions (Sligo Rovers) but most importantly we have been creating chances and in the most part we have finished the ones that have come our way."
Shelbourne travel north without the suspended Graham Gartland, who received an additional two game suspension, following the red card against Dundalk.
On the injury front, both Glenn Cronin and Ger Hanley are some weeks away from a return to full fitness.
Verdict: Derry City
Bray Wanderers v UCD
Bray Wanderers and UCD go head to head in tonight’s Airtricity League clash at the Carlisle Grounds, kick-off 7.45pm.
Adam Mitchell will once again be an absentee for Wanderers, while there is a doubt about striker Jason Byrne who limped off with an ankle injury against Drogheda United.
Defender Shane O'Connor, who has yet to make an appearance this term, has recovered from a hamstring injury and is included in the squad.
Mick Leahy remains out for UCD with a knee injury, while Robbie Benson is also ruled out for Martin Russell’s side as he recovers from a hamstring strain.
Russell said: “The game against Bray is one we look forward to. The Dundalk game was one that got away a bit as we had chances to win it.
“But as ever we look to progress our young squad’s experience and these games against Bray and Sligo at home on Monday are invaluable for them.”
College defender Mark Langtry said: “It's a big game for us and we feel we can get the much needed three points. Training has gone well this week and we want Friday to be the kick-start to the season. We have a tough run of fixtures coming up and we are eager to pick up points.
“The lads all have ability but experience goes a long way in this league as we have learned. I think all the more experienced players are trying to add something.”