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Dundalk and Cork in action as SSE Airtricity League title race hots up

Updated: Friday, 29 Aug 2014 19:41 | Comments

Donal McDermott will be pushing for a start for the Lilywhites
Donal McDermott will be pushing for a start for the Lilywhites

All games 7.45pm unless stated

Athlone Town v Cork City

It's an important game for sides at either end of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table at Athlone Town Stadium tonight.

Town are hoping to close the gap on second from bottom UCD with just five points separating the strugglers. 

Over the last two games Athlone showed their battling, never say die attitude coming from a goal down to snatch a point against both Shamrock Rovers and the Students.

Cork will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing FAI Cup exit, while keeping up the pressure on league leaders Dundalk.

Michael McSweeney is ruled out, having picked up a knock in the FAI Cup game with Bohemians last week. Michael Rafter is again joined on the sidelines by Rob Lehane, but Lehane is expected back in training early next week.

John O’Flynn is a doubt for the game and will be assessed closer to kick-off, while Ross Gaynor returns having been cup-tied for the games against Bohemians.

Athlone boss Keith Long will return to the bench after sitting out the last two games due to suspension.

He will be without Eric Foley due to a one game ban while Aidan Collins is still about three to four weeks from a return.

Stephen Quigley and Graham Rusk are out for the season with injury.

Alan Byrne and Philly Gorman sat out the draw against UCD due to suspension and they return.

Cork manager John Caulfield is demanding a big performance from his team and said: "We have worked very hard to get to second in the table, we are right in there and we know how big Friday’s game is.

"It is the biggest game of the season for us. Every game is big, but we are now at a stage in the season where the run-in is on. We can’t afford to not perform."

Bray Wanderers v UCD

Bray Wanderers take on relegation rivals UCD is what could be a crucial game at the Carlisle Grounds. Just one point separates the two teams and a win for either tonight would be a big step towards safety.

The hosts come into the game on the back a 1-1 draw with Cork City and manager Alan Mathews wants more of the same from his side. 

"Everyone knows what is at stake over the coming weeks and it’s important that we back up our excellent performance in Cork with the right result against UCD," he said.

Mathews can welcome Jake Kelly back into his squad after he recovered from a groin injury but the Bray boss continues to have injury concerns elsewhere.

Long-term injury victim Dave Webster, who has had a foot injury, is unlikely to be ready, while Adam Hanlon (back), Eric McGill (calf) and Shane O’Neill (knee) - all of whom missed the Cork game - have still not recovered sufficiently from their injuries to be available.

The Students will have been slightly disappointed not to have taken full points from last week's encounter with bottom side Athlone but manager Aaron Callaghan talked up the result.

"Last week was a real battle for us, with Athlone really going for the win as they try to make up the ground on both us and Bray.  I thought we played very well and in particular our defensive performance was brilliant," he said. 

"The result makes Friday's game extremely important as a win for either side will put them one step closer to securing their league status for next season, however there is still a long way to go in the season."

There is good news on the injury front for UCD, as they will be able to call on striker Dean Clarke, who has returned to training after a long absence with a back injury.

Mark Langtry will miss out, however, as he continues his recovery from a broken ankle. Tomas Boyle will also miss out with a hamstring injury.

Derry City v St Patrick's Athletic

Derry City will be looking to back up their 4-0 victory over Limerick on Monday evening with another good performance against the reigning league champions at the Brandywell.

The Candystripes will be without the services of Cliff Byrne (medial ligament) Danny Ventre (knee), Rory Patterson (back injury) and Patrick McEleney (Viral infection).

Speaking ahead of the game, manager Peter Hutton said: "Monday night was a very much complete performance from the lads. It was a game in which everyone of the fifteen lads played their part in what was a very good night for us.

"Having said that, it is vital that we carry that momentum into Friday evening's game against St Pats. The last game in Richmond Park is better forgotten, we certainly helped them on that night with all five goals."

Pat's team news not available

Dundalk v Bohemians

League leaders Dundalk will be hoping to maintain their advantage at the top of the table but face a Bohemians side who are finding themselves in a bit of form.

A 2-1 victory over First Division outfit Galway in the FAI Cup on Monday was far from convincing for Dundalk and manager Stephen Kenny expects a stern test from the Gypsies.

“Bohemians are a side who are in terrific form of late. They are a good side and they are playing very well at the moment. They will give us a difficult match," he said. 

"They have been tough opponents for us this year with the two matches in Oriel Park and the victory for us in Dalymount was a very tough match for us".

Dundalk will be again without injured captain Stephen O’Donnell, however, the skipper has taken a huge step in his recovery and is now back in training following his injury in April.

Simon Kelly is ruled out with a calf strain but there are no suspension worries for the manager. After sitting out last week’s FAI Cup tie, Patrick Hoban, Peter Cherrie, Kurtis Byrne and Andy Boyle are all expected to be restored to the starting team.

Having dismissed Cork City from the FAI Cup, Bohemians can now do the same club a favour by getting a result at Oriel Park.

Manager Owen Heary is relishing the challenge, only regretting that he does not have a full squad to choose from.

He said: “I’d love to play them with a full-strength team but I still feel confident enough to go up and get a result. We want to go and win the game.

“There’s nothing expected of us going to Dundalk but we’re definitely going to take the game to them.”

Defenders Dan Byrne (cruciate) and Anto Murphy (ankle) are likely to miss the rest of the season. Steven Beattie is suspended and captain Dave Mulcahy has personal commitments that keep him out.

Limerick v Drogheda

Limerick manager Martin Russell says he is confident that his players will produce a "good response" when they welcome Drogheda United to Thomond Park following Monday's heavy defeat to Derry City.

The Shannonsiders are hurting from the 4-0 loss to Derry, where the visitors netted twice in each half to smash the home side’s recent good form.

"I think the boys will respond,” Russell told LimerickFC.ie. "They’re disappointed in themselves and that’s where you’re confident we’ll get a good response. That’s what we’re looking for.

"We'll go from now until the end of the season and every team will remain competitive in the league. That’s the way the league is."

Limerick again have doubts over three of their back four. Left-back Robbie Williams (groin) is being monitored along with central defensive pair Samuel Oji (groin) and Stephen Folan (thigh); the latter duo were forced off against Derry, early and late respectively.

There is also a doubt over midfielder Jason Hughes (knee) while a definite absentee is centre-half Michael Leahy (groin). 

Drogheda, meanwhile, will be hoping to continue their mini-revival under new manager Damien Richardson who has lost just once since taking charge at the end of July.

Gavin Brennan will be unavailable due to suspension for Drogheda as the winger will begin a four-match ban for his dismissal in the defeat to Bohemians a fortnight ago.

Mick Daly is an injury doubt and will be assessed at training while Stephen Maher will be missing through injury, but the midfielder should be back in training in the next ten days.

This is the first time that Richardson will test himself against Limerick and the Drogs boss said: "I’m very excited to be managing against Limerick for the first time in many years as they were relegated during my time at Cork City and Thomond Park is a wonderful venue for football.

"It's pleasing to see Martin Russell in charge as he is a real football man and I’m certain that he will be successful there but we are confident that we can cause them problems tonight."

Shamrock Rovers v Sligo Rovers, 8pm

Shamrock Rovers take on Sligo Rovers in Tallaght Stadium knowing that a victory over the Bit o 'Red could all but end Sligo's hopes of European football next season.

The Hoops will be aiming to extend their lead over Sligo to 11 points and put pressure on third-placed St Pat's.

Ryan Brennan remains out of the game through injury, while David O’Connor has also been ruled out with a hamstring injury that he picked up in last week’s game. Gary McCabe is suspended for the tie.

Rovers manager Pat Fenlon said: "I expect it to be a tough game tomorrow night. Like ourselves, Sligo would have expected to be further up the table at this stage of the season.

"Our aim is to catch those ahead of us, but Sligo’s aim will certainly be to catch us. If we win tomorrow night, we can put that aim to bed, but if they win they’ll know it will make a huge difference."

The Bit o' Red come into the game in form and have taken seven points from the last nine available with a draw against Dundalk and wins over Athlone and Bray Wanderers.

Iarfhlaith Davoren, Raffaele Cretaro and John Russell have returned to training this week and are in contention. Jeff Henderson and Daryl Kavanagh remain out, Danny Ledwith and Alan Keane are suspended. 

Manager John Coleman said: "It will help that we have some senior men back. The young players have been great. They've enjoyed the experience of training with the first-team and being part of it. But it's very important we have more experienced players available to us.

"We have a busy period coming up and we have to win the games. I felt we were excellent against Dundalk and Bray. The lads enjoyed how we played against Dundalk and I felt they embraced it.

"It was hard but the reward was clear to see and while we faded in the last 10 minutes I thought we could have won the game."

Premier Division Run-in


 

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