Derry City v Bray Wanders
Enjoying a fine start to the season, blighted only by a narrow opening day defeat to Sligo Rovers, Derry are, as of now, the only team that appear able to keep in touch with the champions.
The 1-0 defeat at the Brandywell was swiftly followed by a 6-0 thumping of UCD and Friday’s 4-0 victory over Shelbourne proved that result wasn’t a fluke and that that there are plenty of goals in Declan Devine’s team.
Rory Patterson, so often troubled by injury last season, is fit and a real threat in front of goal. With five goals to his name already this season, Patterson will again be the danger man for the Candystripes and the man that Bray must stop if they are to get anything from this game.
Devine will again be without the services of long term injury victim Stewart Greacan and while captain Kevin Deery is nearing a return to action this game will come a little too early for him to be considered.
The Derry boss is unlikely to make any changes from the side that claimed such a comprehensive victory over Shelbourne on Good Friday.
At the same time that Derry were on their way to that win, visitors Bray were battling back to claim a draw against bottom side UCD.
The Seagulls showed plenty of character to earn a 2-2 draw after having goalkeeper Darren Quigley sent off and they’ll need to dig deep again if they are to avoid defeat at the Brandywell.
Quigley will miss this game as a result of that red card, while central defender Adam Mitchell also misses out as he struggles to recover from a knee injury. There is better news elsewhere however as Shane O’Connor comes back into the squad after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Bray boss Pat Devlin was pleased with how his side responded to Quigley’s red card and said: "In many ways it was good to get the point after being reduced to ten men. We were unlucky with the sending off but it's now a case of up and at it again."
A point may be the best his side can hope for against Bray and even that will require keeping Patterson and the rest of a potent Derry attack quiet.
The Candystripes are unbeaten in their last eleven league games with Bray and they should extend that streak on Monday.
Drogheda United v Cork City
Drogheda United go into this game having had a day’s extra rest over visitors Cork City and will be eager to get back to action.
A 2-2 draw against local rivals Dundalk on Thursday viewed in isolation wouldn’t always seem a bad result but given the fact that Mick Cooke’s men were leading 2-0 with 20 minutes to go, the manager will be looking for a response from his side against Cork.
Drogheda will be boosted by the return of Alan McNally, Gary O'Neill and Derek Prendergast who have all trained and are available for selection.
Ryan Brennan is a slight doubt with a hamstring injury, while Alan Byrne will miss the game through suspension after he was sent off against Dundalk on Thursday night.
Cooke is upbeat about his side’s chances and expects his side to bounce back: “I thought we played well on Thursday night, we controlled the game, but as you saw, games can change so quickly and we came away with a point. I thought we held out well with ten-men, but we are playing well at the moment. There is a good sense of confidence in the squad," he said.
“I went to see Cork on Friday night and they did well when down to ten-men and they were unlucky not to come away with a win. But they are playing well this season and will put it up to any team this season.”
Like Drogheda, Cork gave up a lead late into the game in their last game, but an injury time goal from Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght was a cruel way for their match to end.
City were impressive against Rovers, continuing to frustrate the Dublin side despite going down to ten men and it wasn’t until deep into injury time that they finally conceded and were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.
Darren Dennehy, who was sent-off against Rovers, will be suspended for the trip to Hunky Dorys Park while Daryl Horgan (ankle) and Danny Muprhy (toe) and both doubts after picking up injuries in Tallaght.
Dunne is concerned about the pitch in Drogheda and expects a real scrap on Monday. “This will be a different game to Friday night- at Rovers you have wide open spaces, whereas Drogheda will be the other extreme. It is a tight pitch, and I believe the pitch is not in great condition, so it will be a battle,” he said.
Both sides will be hoping to keep their discipline, having seen red in the last games but this will be a physical battle and one in which the two teams may very well cancel each other out.
Shelbourne v Bohemians
Shelbourne will be eager to put the memory of Friday’s 4-0 defeat away to Derry City behind them and this Dublin derby offers them the perfect opportunity to do so.
Shels have struggled this season, with only a point to their name and just goal difference keeping them off bottom spot.
However that draw came against local rivals Shamrock Rovers and another derby game, where form can so often go out the window, can offer Alan Matthews’ men the chance to kick-start their season.
Matthews will again be without the injured Glenn Cronin and Ger Hanley although both could come into contention for their weekend game. Graham Gartland is again suspended as a result of a red card he picked up against Dundalk.
Bohemians come into the game of the back of a match that had a similar scoreline to Shels and Derry, after they lost 3-0 to Sligo.
However their performance against the champions was much better than that scoreline suggests and manager Aaron Callaghan will be confident that if his side continue to play the right kind of football then the results will come.
“For long periods of the game I thought we played well, and moved the ball well,” said Callaghan of their game with Sligo.
“The early goal was a kick in the teeth but we responded well and we were back in the game for 25 minutes after that. But we didn’t pass and move it as quickly as we would like and we’ve got to work on that.”
Owen Heary, who has played a significant role for both Bohemians and Shels through the years, will miss the game with a knee injury he picked up against Sligo.
Even without the experience Heary, the Gypsies should be able to extend Shelbourne’s poor start to the season.
Callaghan’s young side have impressed with the way they’ve gone about their business this season and while a lack of goals may have been problematic so far, they should have enough about them to claim all three points.
UCD v Sligo Rovers
It’s top versus bottom and without wishing to be unkind, this looks as straight-forward a game as Ian Baraclough’s men will have all season.
If there is hope for UCD it’s in the fact that they claimed their first point of the season against Bray Wanderers on Friday. But even then, they had to settle for a point having been in a leading position and up against ten-men. Indeed it was UCD who were hanging on as the game drew to a close.
The Students will be without the injured duo of Mick Leahy (knee) and Robbie Benson (hamstring), while Mark Langtry (dead leg) and Barry McCabe (groin) are doubts.
Manager Martin Russell hopes his side can build on that draw, but acknowledges that UCD are up against it when they take a Sligo side with a 100% record.
“We played well against Bray on Friday night and showed great spirit to come back from their early goal and get into the lead until the 80th minute. It was our first point and we hope to build on it against Sligo,” Russell said.
“Playing against Sligo represents the sternest of challenges but it's great for our young lads to test themselves against the best in the country and see how well they can do.”
For Sligo it looks to be business as usual. Baraclough can call on Danny Ventre, who has recovered from a leg injury, to take his place in the squad for the first time this season, although Gavin Peers is a doubt with a hamstring strain. Seamus Conneely misses out with a knee injury.
Baraclough is unlikely to tinker with a side that has been head and shoulders above anyone else in the league this season. With five wins from five and just two goals conceded, the Champions look certain to extend their winning streak but their manager is talking up the challenge of UCD.
“We’ve had UCD watched and they’ve got a big personnel to choose from of young, talented players who will give their all for 90 plus minutes. They’ll feel like they have a bit of an Indian sign over us at last year and they are at home. They will believe they can cause us problems and we have to cope with it and be on top of our game to come away with a good outcome,” the Sligo boss said.
“We were caught out last year for whatever reason against them and deservedly beaten, we’ll put all our energy into Monday’s game and know that it’s up to us to go out there and play to our strengths.”
Those strengths are primarily free-scoring frontman Anthony Elding and the understanding and partnership he has formed with Rafaele Cretaro and the rest of the Sligo attack.
Despite Baraclough’s protestations, his side should win this at a canter. No team has been able to cope with Rovers yet this year and it’s unlikely that a UCD side low on confidence and still without a win are going to show the rest how to do it.