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SSE Airtricity League previews: Dundalk & Cork vie for top spot, Sligo take on Athlone

Updated: Monday, 19 May 2014 21:56 | Comments

Dundalk are out for revenge following their 4-1 drubbing by rivals Drogheda on the opening day of the season
Dundalk are out for revenge following their 4-1 drubbing by rivals Drogheda on the opening day of the season

Dundalk or Cork City could return to the top of the SSE Airtricity League table after Tuesday night's fixtures. Cork travel to Limerick, while Dundalk take on Louth rivals Drogheda. 

Sligo Rovers are also in action as Ian Baraclough’s side look to maintain their return to form as they visit win-less Athlone Town.

Limerick v Cork City 7:45pm

Limerick host Cork City at Thomond Park and manager Stuart Taylor believes that a result is “just around the corner” as his team look to kick-start their season with a Munster derby victory, kick-off 7.45pm.

Taylor’s side are currently sitting second from bottom on 11 points and have just come off successive defeats by Bray Wanderers and Dundalk.

And the Limerick boss is now looking for a 90-minute showing as they look to get their campaign up and running.

Taylor said: “Cork are flying just now. They had momentum going earlier on in the season and then they stuttered a little bit.

“They’re coming to our home place and it’s a derby game. We know what we’ve got to do. It’s one where the supporters love to go and win it and we’d love to win it.

“Our play has been really, really good in the last couple of weeks. We’re desperate to get that result and it’s just around the corner, I’m sure.”

Limerick are boosted by the return of influential defender Samuel Oji from a ban,while defender Shane Costelloe is recovering from a back injury and remain out.

The vistors got back to winning ways last Friday with a 2-0 victory over Derry City at Turner’s Cross and John Caulfield’s side know that a win could put them back top of the table.

City boss Caulfield said: “It’s a local derby. Of course they have Shane Duggan as their captain, and we know him from his time here as an excellent player. They’ve had a difficult run of results since the start of the season, but most of their matches have been very close. They’ve lost games by the odd goal and had a lot of draws, so a couple of wins would shoot them back up the table.

“We are under no illusions; it is another huge match for us and another important three points on offer, so we need to be on top of our game to get a result.  It’s a good challenge for us and, after winning last Friday to bounce back, it is important that we keep our foot on the pedal and play well up there.”

Darren Murphy remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, while Michael Rafter is still a long-term absentee with an ankle injury.

Danny Morrissey returned to full contact training this week, but the striker is still a number of weeks away from a return. And Dan Murray picked up a hamstring strain in the victory over Derry, so a decision on his availability is likely to be left until closer to the game.

Athlone Town v Sligo Rovers 7:45pm

Athlone Town are still looking for their first victory of the season and they will be hoping to secure all three points when they welcome Sligo Rovers to Athlone Town Stadium, kick-off 7.45pm.

The midlands side have found the going tough since their return to the top flight, although recent performances would suggest that they are not too far from claiming their first win.

However, it will be a tough task to achieve that goal in this clash against the recently crowned Setanta Sports Cup champions, who are one of the form teams at the moment.

New Town manager Keith Long must plan without Aidan Collins who is ruled out with a continuing shoulder problem but otherwise the former Bray man has a full squad to choose from.

Neil Harney returned to the bench against Shamrock Rovers on Saturday night and is available for the visit of Sligo, while Sean Byrne also returns after sitting out the defeat to the Hoops through suspension.

The Bit o' Red’s recent run of results has moved Ian Baraclough’s side up to fifth place in the league, following Saturday's 3-0 win over Bray Wanderers.

Baraclough has some injury concerns ahead of the game as Alan Keane (thigh and knee), Joseph Ndo (calf), Gavin Peers (knee), Raffaele Cretaro (calf) and Kieran Djilali (knee) are set to miss out.

The Sligo boss is hopeful that Ndo and Keane will return later in the month, while Djilali is working towards full fitness, while hampered with a troublesome knee problem.

Speaking ahead of the game, Baraclough said: "It's a testament to the group that we're starting to churn out results and play well even with five senior players absent.

"It's important we give players game time because it is a squad situation where we need everybody. People have to be ready and you look at how Eric Odhiambo and Sean Maguire combined for the final goal against Bray. That is what we’re looking for, to make that impact.

"Athlone have a new manager in Keith Long, he is putting his thoughts in place and it looks as if they are responding. They got their first point a couple of weeks ago and they took Shamrock Rovers very close on Saturday. We have to be wary.

"It is no easy three points and just because they are bottom, it doesn't mean they won't pick up points and shocks.

"When we had them in the Showgrounds, it wasn't until later in the game that we put it to bed. We've reminded the players of that and have to put in a performance to win the game."

Dundalk v Drogheda United  

Dundalk will have two very good reasons to win as they take on Louth rivals Drogheda United at Oriel Park, kick-off 7.45pm.

The main reason to secure the victory is to return to the top of the table as they currently sit just one point off league leaders Shamrock Rovers.

And the other will be to restore some local pride and return the bragging rights to the Town after suffering a humiliating 4-1 defeat to Drogheda on the opening day of the season.

Dundalk will be without their captain Stephen O’Donnell who remains out with a long-term serious knee injury and John Mountney is a doubt as he is struggling with a groin injury.

First team coach Vinny Perth said: “Drogheda United are a good side and we know what we’re up against. Derby games are always that little bit different but we won’t get involved with that. We are going out to get the win. We have had a good weekend in preparation for the match and we’re looking forward to it.”

The visitors had been in free-fall since their impressive start to the season, but steadied the ship somewhat last weekend as they beat Bohemians 1-0 at United Park.

Drogheda must plan without Stephen Maher, Michéal Schlingermann and Cathal Brady, who are all ruled out through injury, while Gavin Brennan is ruled out as he is serving a suspension.

Michael Daly and Shane Grimes are rated as doubtful but Alan McNally returns to the side having missed the game against Bohemians due to suspension.

Drogheda boss Robbie Horgan said: “Two games in four days is never ideal with the size of our squad but that has been compounded with the injuries and suspensions that we have at the moment.

"It is what it is and we still have a strong eleven to put out onto the pitch. Dundalk will be big favourites but we go there knowing that we have already beaten them this season so that will give us confidence.

“I’m sure revenge will be on a lot of minds in Dundalk considering what happened on the opening night of the season. Nobody expected that, none more so than myself. Football is so unpredictable and that was certainly a prime example. Since that game Dundalk have been really good and deserve to be where they are in the league table.”

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