SATURDAY 7 AUGUST
Waterford FC v Bohemians, RSC, 2pm
After their fantastic first-leg victory over POAK in the third round qualifying for the Europa Conference League, Bohemians must now concentrate on picking up league points to ensure that they are in contention to be in Europe again in 2022.
Ali Coote was the star of the show as the Gypsies got the better of their Greek opponents at the Aviva. Alongside Dawson Devoy, Georgie Kelly, Ross Tierney and Liam Burt, he is a part of an exciting, vibrant Bohs team under Keith Long that has certainly found form in recent weeks. Three points at the RSC will close the gap to Sligo Rovers in third spot before Liam Buckley's side play Finn Harps.
Marc Bircham, this week, signed a new two-year contract as manager of Waterford.
The deal will see the 43-year-old through to the end of the 2023 season.
A steady improvement after a slow start upon taking the job in May has seen Bircham's charges rise from the foot of the SSE Airtricity League to eighth position.
The Blues come into this weekend's game after a battling 2-1 win away to Drogheda United last weekend. A Junior Quitirna goal seven minutes from time saw the Blues take home all three points and move out of the relegation zone.
The Blues have been enjoying a good run of form in recent weeks, winning five of their last eight league games, scoring 10 goals.
Waterford FC: Eddie Nolan and Kyle Ferguson are doubts and will face fitness tests ahead of the game, while Anthony Wordsworth is suspended following his red card last weekend. Matthew Connor, Daryl Murphy and Oscar Brennan miss out.
Bohemians: Promise Omochere (quad) and Stephen Mallon (hip) are doubts.
What they said
Mark Bircham (Waterford FC manager): "We were happy to get the win in Drogheda for the work the lads put in and it moves us out of the relegation zone. We aren't getting ahead of ourselves, though. We still have to make sure we do our jobs so we were straight back into it and focused for the coming game.
"Bohemians are a top side. They are riding a wave off the back of their European games over the last few weeks. They have some excellent players in the squad and they are set up well. We know we are in for another battle, but we want to keep the habit of winning for as long as possible.
"We’re in good form ourselves and we are working hard. We’re not a finished product but we’re getting the new players up to fitness. They’ve fit in well with the squad so we’re looking to build on that."
Keith Long (Bohemians manager): "We said at the end of the game on Tuesday that our focus had to shift to Waterford.
"The boys came off the pitch on Tuesday full of adrenaline. They were pleased. But that is over now and we cannot dwell on that too much.
"That might sound boring when people are getting excited about European games, but we want more nights like we had on Tuesday. That doesn't happen unless our league form is looked after.
"Waterford have made significant changes over the past month or so, and they have won their last four games, so we are in for a real game and we need to deliver a big performance."
Sligo Rovers v Finn Harps, The Showgrounds, 7.45pm
An opportunity here for Liam Buckley's side to get back on track after their Europa Conference League and FAI Cup exits. The latter reverse against Cork City was most frustrating for the Bit O Red faithful as they would have targeted a decent cup run.
As things stand, Sligo sit in third place in the table, three points behind St Pat's Athletic.
Waterford's recent revival under Marc Bircham has seen them leapfrog Finn Harps in the table, with Ollie Horgan's side now occupying the relegation play-off spot.
Sligo Rovers: Robbie McCourt will miss out (wrist). He will come into consideration later this month. Danny Kane is doubtful with a hamstring injury. Ed McGinty is fit again and available to play. John Mahon and Niall Morahan had injuries from the FAI Cup game with Cork City but have recovered and are available.
Finn Harps: Adam Foley, David Webster, Stephen Doherty, Mark Timlin are all injured. Shane McEleney is suspended.
What they said
Liam Buckley (Sligo Rovers manager): "We've been anxious to play a game in truth. We’ve trained a lot the last two weeks and the lads have applied themselves well. The extra week has allowed us to get more players fully recovered and from a squad point of view, we’re in a good place going into Saturday with greater numbers.
"Finn Harps are in need of the points as well so it's going to be a really competitive game.
"We’re all in this together at this club and I know our supporters want to see the team at their best. They know if the team can be at it, then we’ve a very exciting few months to come.
"Our focus is on that and we’ll be doing all we can to get the result on Saturday. It is important we respond and find a result and performance so we look forward to the game."
Oillie Horgan (Finn Harps manager): "Training has been good, it's often that little bit better when you have a week without a competitive game. There's a lot of togetherness in that dressing room but we need to show that on the pitch now to pick up some results and keep us in the division.
"We've played well against Sligo this season but have nothing to show for it. I’d much rather we go out and not play well at all and come away with the points! We’ve found it tough at the Showgrounds down through the years but we’ll take a cut off it anyway."