Dundalk and Cork City go head to head in tonight’s top of the table SSE Airtricity League clash at Turner’s Cross, kick-off 8pm.
Stephen Kenny’s Lilywhites lead the Rebel Army by three points with the visitors unbeaten in 11 Premier Division fixtures. Cork lost at Bohemians last week but have not been beaten at home in league game in more than a year.
Dundalk recorded an emphatic 4-0 win when the sides met at Oriel Park but a much tighter affair is expected. Cork’s recent form has been outstanding with eight wins from nine games so the stage is set for one of the games of the season.
New signing Ross Gaynor will be available for City, having signed from Sligo Rovers during the week, while long-term injury victims Michael Rafter and Darren Murphy remain sidelined and Rob Lehane will also miss out with an ankle injury.
Garry Buckley returns from suspension, while boss John Caulfield is hopeful that Gearóid Morrissey may be available after missing a number of games with an ankle injury.
Caulfield said: “We will give Dundalk as tough a game as we possibly can; it is important for us to give a high quality performance. I’m hoping that we will play well and put it up to them. If we play well and they are better than us, that’s fine, but I have a feeling that if we play well, then we can get a result.”
Third-placed champions St Patrick’s Athletic host Sligo Rovers at Richmond Park with the Saints looking to capitalise on any potential dropped points by the leaders in the Dundalk-Cork City encounter. St Pat’s are nine points behind Dundalk, while Sligo Rovers are fifth and their aspirations of competing for a European spot would be boosted by a victory in Inchicore.
Raffaele Cretaro is ruled out for Sligo with a calf injury, while Jeff Henderson has had surgery on a foot injury and will be out for up to six weeks.
Iarfhlaith Davoren has re-joined the Showgrounds club, while John Russell is also available after missing last week's game with Limerick.
Sean Maguire could be in contention after his loan deal from West Ham was extended. The club are awaiting clearance ahead of tonight's clash.
Sligo boss John Coleman said: "We showed great character last week to get three points against Limerick. I was pleased with that and how we persevered.
"We go to Richmond Park looking for the win first and foremost. I think we have to win the game with our hopes of European football in mind so that is what our mindset will be."
Shamrock Rovers sit in fourth-place and travel to a Limerick side that has lost four consecutive games. Rovers have proven to be better away from home this term with just one defeat in the league on the road so the home side will have their work cut out at Thomond Park.
Rovers defender Rob Cornwall is back training after his recent lay-off with a hamstring injury, however he won’t be ready for tonight's game. Otherwise there is a full Hoops squad available.
Hoops boss Trevor Croly said: “We’ve won our last five games away from home, so we’re glad to have a good chance of putting last week’s result behind. Obviously the results haven’t been so good at home, and we need to look at that, but we’ll bring that away confidence into the game against Limerick. We know that Limerick will be well up for the tie, especially as they have made some additions this week and there should be a feel good factor around the club. But we feel we have a good chance of winning.”
Winger Kieran Djilali might make his Limerick debut, while fellow new signing midfielder Joseph Ndo misses out, as the former Cameroon international is struggling with a knee injury.
Colm Murphy will be absent for the next two weeks having suffered concussion which forced him off at half-time in last week’s loss at Sligo.
Goalkeeper Barry Ryan (knee) is back in contention while midfielder Darragh Rainsford has joined back in training following illness.
Limerick boss Martin Russell said: “Shamrock Rovers are still very much in the title chase. They have a formidable squad so we know that we’ll have to be at our best to get something from the game."
An intriguing tie is expected at the Carlisle Grounds when second from bottom Bray Wanderers host last-placed Athlone Town. Wanderers have not won in their previous nine league games while Athlone have been improved since the appointment of manager Keith Long but have not won an away game this term.
Drogheda United will begin life under new boss Damien Richardson looking to build on their improvement under caretaker Darius Kierans who helped them to two wins from their last four leagues ties. United host UCD who are looking to bounce back from a 6-1 mauling by Derry City last week.
Paul Andrews will be missing for Drogheda as he serves the final game of his four-match ban, while Stephen Maher remains unavailable as he recovers from injury for an otherwise full strength United.
Drogheda are still awaiting international clearance for new signing Peter McGlynn.
New boss Richardson said: “My main aim at Drogheda is to achieve a high level of performance with a strong tempo to our game. We find ourselves in a position that the club shouldn’t be in but it is now up to us to battle our way back to where we should be in the table.
“I watched UCD play in Cork a fortnight ago and they were impressive and unfortunate not to come away with a result. They were heavily beaten last week but that happens when you have such a young side. Individually, they are very capable and Aaron Callaghan is an excellent manager who plays an attractive style of football but it is imperative for us to beat the sides around us in the table.”
UCD will be without Mark Langtry after he broke his ankle against Derry, while Dean Clarke will also miss out as he continues his recovery from a back injury.
Ian Ryan remains a doubt and Hugh Douglas and Colm Crowe are both suspended.
College boss Aaron Callaghan said: "Drogheda had a great result last weekend against Shamrock Rovers and will be confident ahead of the game. It's going to be a tough challenge for us, but we are looking to bounce back after the disappointing result against Derry."
The other Premier Division fixtures sees two sides who have each put together five-game unbeaten runs in the league when Derry City host Bohemians. Bohs have been hard to beat away from home this term and Owen Heary’s side will travel to the Brandywell in confident mood.
City boss Peter Hutton said: "Owen (Heary) has his side on such a good run picking up points against Cork last week and St Pat's in previous weeks and we have to be very aware of that. They are technically and physically a different type of team now as are we and we know we must deal with that challenge, but if we play as we have been since I took over we should be able to give our home supporters the performance they enjoy seeing and of course three vital points."
Cliff Byrne returns for the Candystripes after serving a suspension last weekend but will be without Nathan Boyle (quad) Rory Patterson (back) and Josh Treacy (hip).
Bohs boss Heary has a full squad to choose from as Anto Murphy has recovered from a shoulder injury.
"It's important that we have everyone available as we've two massive games over the next four days," said Heary. "We've got a settled team now and everyone is enjoying it but we'll have to rotate a little between the two games."