Shamrock Rovers v Finn Harps, Tallaght Stadium, 7.45pm

Live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player from 7.30pm

It could be party time in Tallaght Stadium this evening as Shamrock Rovers go in search of the three points they need to clinch back-to-back league titles.

There were moments this season when it seemed like a title race could break out. Two key rivals dropped out of the equation early on to make it a much more simple task for the Hoops.

As Dundalk and Bohemians lost several matches, Stephen Bradley's side were coming up with late goal after late goal to ensure they were never in real danger.

Sligo Rovers looked like they were laying down a market with a win in Tallaght in May, but by the end of the summer they were well out of the race.

Then it was left to St Patrick's Athletic but their failure to land three points against their Dublin rivals made it an impossible task as squad depth allowed the Hoops to get the better of the Saints.

Perhaps most telling of all is their closest rival have lost nine matches this year, so Bradley's men in truth have never been in major danger.

The 21 victories so far tell a story of unquestionably the best side in the country and their dominance could go on for some time.

Last week's 1-0 win in Longford was not spectacular, but typical of the superiority they have. A win tonight, or if Pat's slip up in the midlands, and Bradley will be celebrating a third trophy as manager. The best may yet be to come.

Harps visit Dublin knowing they are not there to make up numbers. Despite the heroics of coming from two goals down and a man down for 85 minutes against Sligo Rovers, results elsewhere have seen them slip into the play-off spot.

This is all the more remarkable given it is their best season in memory points-wise. They were one of the teams to beat the Hoops this season and in a normal year they would be safe by now.

However the ultra competitive nature of the league has been their need for points a big one. It will be difficult tonight but it will ensure it's not procession for the home side.

Team news

Shamrock Rovers: Ronan Finn should be available after going off injured against Longford but Sean Kavanagh is out. Roberto Lopes returns from suspension.

Finn Harps: Gerard Doherty, Johnny Dunleavy, Adam Foley, Mark Timlin, Ryan Rainey and Ethan Boyle are all doubts. Kosovar Sadiki is suspended after being sent off against Sligo Rovers last week.

What they said

Stephen Bradley (Shamrock Rovers manager): "That's what we've worked all year for, to put ourselves in this position to win the league and we have that opportunity. So, there's real excitement but we also have to stay focused on the task in hand, which will be a difficult one.

"They beat us up there last time and deserved to beat us. They took a point from Tallaght and I'm sure they feel they should have won the game in the last minute with Sean Boyd's header. They're fighting for points as well, down at the other end of the table. We know it's going to be a very difficult game, but we've worked from day one in pre-season to put ourselves in a position like this. We've got to make sure that we're focused on that."

Ollie Horgan (Finn Harps manager): "When you need to be putting points on the board, I can't think of many worse places to be going. Shamrock Rovers will have a packed crowd now on Friday night and they’ll all be expecting a big result to clinch the league title for them.

"It’s a massive ask for us to get anything out of the game, and we have another huge game against Drogheda on Monday night to think about too. There are a lot of lads carrying knocks and we’ll have to do our best to manage them and give ourselves a chance of getting a result somewhere."

Derry City v Bohemians, Ryan McBride Brandywell, 7.45pm

There has been a familiar theme to Bohemians' season. They reach big heights, whether it's progressing through two rounds in Europe or a home win over PAOK, and even booking a spot in the FAI Cup, and then come crashing back to reality in the league.

Many assumed eventually their quality would come to the fore and a top three or four spot would be inevitable. That hasn't materialised and they were well and truly turned over by Waterford on Monday after beating the Blues in the Cup and taking a 1-0 lead at half-time in that league encounter.

That was a painful defeat made worse by an injury to the prolific Georgie Kelly and they travel to the Brandywell tonight knowing it could be a make-or-break time for that top four league place.

Derry are the side chasing down Bohs and Sligo and have been one of the form teams in the country. The 1-0 loss in Drogheda was a real missed opportunity but they were fairly beaten on the day.

Bohs can still rely on the FAI Cup for a place in Europe but that would only add to the pressure on them on that final Sunday in November.

Derry would love the added bonus of a Europa Conference League spot as they look set to challenge for major honours next season.

This will be a six-pointer and the last meeting of the sides - a 3-3 in Dalymount - was arguably the most entertaining game of the season and produced some of the best goals.

This should be a cracker.

Team news

Derry City: Jack Malone is suspended while Bastien Hery will also be absent as he is on loan from Bohs. Danny Lafferty is set to return.

Bohemians: Stephen Mallon (hip) looks set to be sidelined again.

What they said

Ruaidhri Higgins (Derry City manager): "It's a huge game for both sides, maybe even more so because we’re both coming into it on the back of defeats."There’s so much at stake in every match that you have to bounce back very quickly and that’s what we’re looking to do on Friday."

"Games between ourselves and Bohs this season have been close but they’ve also been exciting to watch."

Dawson Devoy (Bohemians player): "Our last five games are against the teams in first, second, third, fourth and sixth. They're all massive games.

"There’s plenty at stake. Every team is trying to get as many points as possible but we have to focus on trying to get three in Derry.

Dundalk v Waterford, Oriel Park, 7.45pm

When Dundalk strung together wins over Sligo Rovers, Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers in recent weeks it seemed as if their relegation worries were over.

Just when you thought they were out, Waterford pulled them back in with their own run of three points and tonight will be squeaky bum time at Oriel Park.

Both sides will see it as a big chance knowing Finn Harps face a tough night in Tallaght Stadium.

The loss of three backroom members - something Vinny Perth said he did not blame his staff for walking out on the club - has once again brought questions over what is going on in the background at the club and their uncertain future.

The FAI Cup exit at the hands of St Pat's, and narrow league loss, were morale-sapping losses and Perth will be pleased to be back on home territory tonight given they haven't won away from home since June.

Dundalk have played an extra game compared to their relegation rivals. Level on points with the Blues, this is a key game at the bottom.

Bircham admitted his small squad is feeling the strain after their win in Dalymount Park but their spirit does not look like breaking at any time.

They remain the form league in the league since the mid-season break outside of Shamrock Rovers and that represents a huge achievement. A win tonight would make it even greater.

Team news


Waterford: Matthew Connor and Prince Mutswunguma are expected to miss out while Eddie Nolan is a doubt after injury against Bohemians on Monday. Brian Murphy is suspended.

What they said

Marc Bircham (Waterford manager): "We were delighted with the win on Monday (against Bohemians). It was probably the most proud I've been so far with the team and the performance, and we thoroughly deserved the win.

"Having lost the previous Friday, the lads were determined to get the win and it was another important three points to lift us out of the relegation zone.

"But we’re not done yet. We still have a long way to go and we have five big games to come. Dundalk this Friday is another game for us and we’re approaching it the same as we always do."

Sligo Rovers v Drogheda United, The Showgrounds, 7.45pm

Frank Sinatra sang about riding high in April and being shot down in May but it was the latter which the high point for Sligo Rovers.

Top of the table after 14 matches after beating Shamrock Rovers and Finn Harps away from home, some could have been daring to dream in the Showgrounds.

The next 17 games have been more of a nightmare with 16 points accumulated. In that period the Hoops have moved 22 points clear of the Bit O'Red, while Harps are just nine points away in their relegation play-off position.

Yet, despite all of that, Liam Buckley's side sit in third place. Bohemians and Derry have faltered somewhat so Sligo remain in control of their own destiny.

Not qualifying for Europe would be a crushing blow after the opening third of the season. With games against their European rivals to come, this weekend's home fixtures with Drogheda and Longford Town are set to be the true test of whether Sligo are going to come crashing out of the European spots.

A 2-0 lead against 10 men in the final minutes of the game in Finn Park had been set to bring a first away success since July but a nervy side shipped two late goals to battling Harps. Their players looked distraught but the consolation of Derry and Bohs losing in the days afterwards has given them hope.

There is a new side in the equation now and that is this week's opponent's Drogheda. Tim Clancy's side have been part of the group of teams experiencing a rollercoaster season. Last week's win over Derry secured their 43rd point of the season which is a remarkable feat given their resources and that it is the first season back in the top flight.

Bonus territory is entering the race for Europe. Drogs sit level on points with Bohs and a win tonight would move them to within a point of third place Sligo. This is a genuine chance for Clancy's men to move into the race on the final bend and while they may be playing down talk of Europe, they will certainly fancy tonight's game given they are unbeaten in three matches against Buckley's side.

Team news

Sligo Rovers: Shane Blaney may be included in the squad after recovering from a foot injury. Greg Bolger returns from a two-game ban.

Drogheda United: To follow

What they said

Liam Buckley (Sligo Rovers manager): "The results in the last week were typical of what the league has been and in this game we could open up a seven-point lead on Drogheda or have it reduced to one. Every game has a three points at stake which makes a big difference and as I've said from early on the teams are so well matched. We’ve created this position for ourselves. We’re still in that third place and Drogheda are one of the teams looking to chase us down.

"For the players these are games to look forward to and to really relish. I want them to play with an excitement rather than any other feeling. There is the opportunity for us in this game and the ones to come so that is how it should be looked at. I want them to use that in how we play."

James Brown (Drogheda United player ): ""We know these games are vital now, every game is a cup final. We're looking both up and down the table. We’re mainly just trying to stay up to be honest.

"Our main goal is to stay safe. I don't think we’re there yet. We probably need another win or two."

Longford Town v St Patrick's Athletic, Bishopsgate, 7.30pm

St Patrick's Athletic are the side with the most breathing space in the division. The Saints had a very memorable occasion last Friday in booking an FAI Cup final spot at the expense of Dundalk and the sold out crowd in Richmond Park celebrated accordingly.

The players backed that up by grinding out a win over the same opposition and they has ensured second place is very close to being sealed.

Stephen O'Donnell can use the final five games to finesse his side for the Cup date and keep competition healthy.

Two wins will guarantee European football next season but given the sides below them are likely to drop points, even one win should be enough.

They'll fancy their chances against a Longford side that continue to battle bravely for little reward. Daire Doyle is planning for next season promotion tilt after being outclassed - and a little unlucky - this campaign.

Two wins in 31 matches tell a story and it isn't likely to get easier against the in-form Saints.

Team news

Longford Town: Dean Byrne remains on the injury list. Darragh Nugent is a doubt.

St Patrick’s Athletic: Chris Forrester and Matty Smith return from suspension, Ronan Coughlan is banned after his red card in Derry. John Mountney (knee) is out for the season while Ben McCormack continues to recover from an ankle injury.

What they said

Stephen O’Donnell (St Patrick’s Athletic manager): "We know it is going to be another tough game down there. Longford have been in most games this season and they are still being really competitive, we saw that in their performance last Saturday against Shamrock Rovers. We had a good performance down there in the first game back after the summer break, so we are looking forward to going down."