The biggest derby in Irish football comes around again on Friday night, with the RTÉ cameras set to broadcast the game live.

Before the break it seemed like there was little chance of Shamrock Rovers being stopped on the quest for three in a row.

However, Dundalk's victory last week has brought a chink of light for the chasing pack.

The Lilywhites are emerging as the most likely challenger, now in second place, with Derry City continuing to struggle.

The Candystripes have picked up just four points in their last seven matches.

While Shamrock Rovers have a small stumble, they've been able to move further clear of Ruadhri Higgins’ side who sit in third spot.

Tonight’s opposition for the Hoops, Bohemians, are part of a group of clubs chasing European football next season.

Whatever happens in the title race, Bohs will be part of a large group of clubs competing for a top four position

]t was a timely boost for Keith Long’s men when they hung on against 10-man Shels for a large part of the second half.

Reinforcements have arrived to be able to play from July, and any positive result away to their arch-rivals will change the mood of discontent which has lingered in their fan base in the first part of the season.

The Hoops, meanwhile, are preparing for their European campaign, starting in two weeks, and this game and a re-arranged fixture in Inchicore on Monday, are important for going into their summer season in good form.

Their performance in Oriel Park was a flat one and there’ll be no room for a repeat against their cross-city enemy.

Dundalk will try to close the gap further if there is a surprise result in Tallaght Stadium.

They face Shels at Tolka Park, with the home side still irked by not getting back into the game in Dalymount.

There’s an opportunity for Derry to return to winning ways against UCD, who have yet to win a home match at the Bowl this season.

They’ve been able to pick up enough points to be within touching distance of Finn Harps. A win tonight for Andy Myler’s charges could take them off the bottom.

Harps host St Patrick’s Athletic as they seek to turn their year again. Ollie Horgan had some harsh words after the 3-0 loss in Sligo last week, admitting he had to make changes to the squad as it stands they aren’t good enough to avoid the drop.

Drogheda United continued their good run with a point in the Brandywell last week and host Sligo Rovers.

John Russell has made a bright start to life with the Bit O’ Red. They had their biggest win of the season in the Head in the Game Park last time out. This game is likely to be a lot closer.

Shamrock Rovers v Bohemians, Tallaght Stadium, 7.45pm

Shamrock Rovers are looking to respond to last week's defeat

Tallaght Stadium will soon have a fourth stand, bringing capacity close to 10,000, and it is needed given this fixture sold out early in the week.

It's a sign of where the League of Ireland can go in the future. How Bohemians would love to have a third and fourth area for spectators as they continue to sell out 3,800 nearly every game.

On the pitch, these sides have also moved in different direction. As Shamrock Rovers grow stronger, Bohs have had to rebuild each year and it's no surprise they've taken backwards steps as a result.

When it comes to these games, there are no excuses. Bohs managed two wins in Dalymount Park last but otherwise the Tallaght side have been dominating this fixture recently.

However, Bohs did pick up three points as the Hoops fell to defeat in Dundalk. It gives the Gypsies some hope.

Stephen Bradley has warned of the dangers of the Bohs front men

"It has the makings of a really good game and one that we are looking forward to. It has the makings of a good weekend with Bohs and St Pat's on Monday, a really good weekend to look forward to.

"We’ve seen that their attacking players are a threat and can cause problems for anyone, we know that and have to l respect it and make sure that we are ready for it, and then impose ourselves on them as soon as possible

"We know that we are better than (the performance in Dundalk), and we have been better than that, we had an off night, and sometimes that happens."

Bohs started the second half of the season with three points in a Dublin derby against Shelbourne last week as Dawson Devoy's long-range effort was enough to secure victory for Keith Long’s side, who played the last 40 minutes with just ten men.

But the temperature will ratchet up a notch when the Gypsies travel to take on league leaders in Dublin 24.

"These are massive games. We all know that," says Conor Levingston. "They’re huge and mean so much to everyone involved."For us though it’s about working on our play and what we are going to do.

"We have a big job ahead but one we are looking forward to.

Jack Bynre is out for the home side. Graham Burke and Danny Mandriou are likely to be available.

Ciaran Kelly is suspended for Bohemians - they'll bring a sold out away support as part of the 7,500 in attendance.

Shelbourne v Dundalk, Tolka Park, 7.45pm

Damien Duff's side drew with Dundalk in their first meeting in Tolka Park

Shelbourne boss Damien Duff is looking forward to returning to Tolka Park on Friday after a spell on the road and the mid-season break.

The loss in Dalymount last week was a frustrating one and ahead of welcoming second-place Dundalk, he has told Shels fans "don't underestimate how important the home support is".

Shelbourne have Sean Boyd from a ban and Adam Thomas returns from injury.

Shels drew 1-1 with Dundalk last time out in Tolka Park but lost out in a tight encounter with the Lilywhites at Oriel most recently.

"It's a long time since we’ve played at home with a over a month since our last game with UCD so it will be nice to be back on home turf with a passionate home fan base," said Duff.

"Having Sean Boyd back is a big plus as he’s a big presence on and off the field so hopefully he continues his good form but also stops getting booked so much," he added.

Duff was full of praise for two young starlets in training and the match day squad last week as Lewis Temple and Gavin Hodgins have impressed in training this week.

Duff said young central defender Temple "played with the cigar out he was that comfortable" in a in-house friendly match recently.

The former Republic of Ireland winger said Hodgins was "unfortunate" to have hit the crossbar last week in Dalymount but hailed the young striker as "one for the future."

"I want more and more out of the players every day and they know that but they’re in great shape as one of the fittest teams in the league so we’re ready to go for Friday," Duff said.

"They’re in good form and whether they’ll mount a title challenge now I guess we’ll see but we’re looking forward to being at home and with the 12th man again," he added.

Shels have no further suspensions while Daniel Hawkins continues to recover from injury.

It's six wins on the spin for Dundalk as they continue an unlikely tilt at the title.

They drew 1-1 last time in Tolka in a close game.

Stephen O'Donnell feels Shels are improving.

He said: "Damien Duff is doing a very good job there. They are definitely settling into his style of play and they went on a very good run before the break, winning four games in a row. They were probably unlucky to lose last week against Bohemians and they have a lot of good individuals.

"We know it’ll be tough but we’re looking forward to it," he added. "We’re on a good run of form, which is down to hard work, and we need to keep doing that in order to have any chance up there tomorrow night."

Drogheda United v Sligo Rovers, Head in the Game Park, 7.45pm

Karl O'Sullivan has scored in his last two matches for Sligo Rovers

Drogheda United go into this game on a four-match unbeaten run, made all the more impressive by facing Shamrock Rovers, Derry City and Bohemians during those fixture.

Having shipped two defeats to Sligo Rovers so far this season, they'll be keen to turn that around tonight.

John Russell is making small steps towards sending Sligo Rovers in the right direction.

Wins over Derry City and Finn Harps under his leadership has put Sligo in the top half and in position to challenge the top four.

With a European match with Bala Town to come, it would be a great time to go on an unbeaten run like Drogheda’s.

Aidan Keena has bagged nine goals in 17 matches for the Bit O’Red.

Russell said: '’We were delighted to get the win last weekend. I felt our performance was good, especially in the first half. We reviewed the game during the week, and we know we can improve our play from the second half. The great thing about this group of players is their willingness to learn and their desire to keep getting better.

"Drogheda will be another tough test on Friday evening. They’re on a good run of results and have a nice blend of youth and experience in their team. We know we must be at our best to get a result but we’re looking forward to the challenge. Our supporters always travel in numbers so we’re hoping for a big following on the night.

Rovers welcome back midfield duo Greg Bolger and Adam McDonnell to the squad following suspension.

Garry Buckley and Nando Pijnaker are doubtful. Jordan Hamilton departed the club by mutual agreement yesterday.

New signing Frank Liivak is ineligible until the July transfer window opens.

Finn Harps v St Patrick's Athletic, Finn Park, 8pm

Ollie Horgan is ready to make changes at Finn Harps

Ollie Horgan rarely disguises the reality for his side.

With just two wins from 19 matches, and having seen them go 2-0 down to Sligo Rovers in the opening minutes last week, he couldn't help but reveal his concern.

With the July window approaching, he is going to dip into the market with a view to overhauling his squad.

Tonight’s game will be the focus for now. It’s very unlikely Harps can get themselves out of the bottom two and their main concern will be slipping behind UCD.

Horgan is hoping to see his side learn from the mistakes of last week.

He said: "When you go two down in the opening ten minutes your gameplan goes out the window. We can’t afford to let that happen again. Pats are a quality side. They’ve beaten us fairly comfortably twice already this season and will be coming here looking to continue that trend and keep pressure on the sides at the top of the table.

"If we can get off to a good start and keep things tight at the back we’ll give ourselves a chance which is all you can ask for. We need to start getting points on the board and hopefully put some space between ourselves and UCD and give us a fighting chance of staying in the division."

David Webster misses out through injury while Elie-Gael N’Zeyi, Ryan Connolly and Yoyo Mahdy are doubts. Bastien Héry is suspended again.

St Pat’s were not convincing against College last week, but they can make it three wins on the spin if they are successful here.

Clancy would like to see that achieved ahead of a derby game with Shamrock Rovers on Monday

"We are looking forward to the game, and as always, it will be a difficult one at Finn Harps.

"We've beaten them 2-0 in both of the games so far and scored some really good goals in those wins. We were very pleased with our defending in those matches too, keeping clean sheets against Finn Harps is difficult so we'll be looking to be strong defensively again tomorrow night which will allow our attacking players to go and express themselves.

"We know it's an important weekend with Shamrock Rovers to come at home on Monday night at a packed Richmond, but for now, we are all fully focused on trying to get three points up at Finn Harps and if we put in a good performance, hopefully we'll be able to do that."

Jamie Lennon (broken foot) has returned to training for the Saints while Paddy Barrett's recovery from an operation continues to progress well but this game comes too soon.

Adam Murphy and Ronan Coughlan (both hamstring) will also miss the game.

UCD V Derry City, UCD Bowl, 7.45pm

Cameron Dummigan is ruled out for Derry

Derry City's injury problems continue with confirmation Cameron Dummigan will miss the next number of games having picked up a foot injury this week.

That leaves the Candystripes travelling to the Belfield Bowl on Friday night without Dummigan, Eoin Toal, Ronan Boyce plus the two long-term absentees, Michael Duffy and Ciaron Harkin.

It’s not a coincidence Derry’s form has dipped as the problems have worsened.

However, City have to get back to winning ways soon or will even see the teams in the middle of the table catch up with them.

Manager Ruaidhri Higgins has no issue using some of his younger players: "Caoimhin Porter came in against Drogheda last week and was superb, and he will certainly get plenty of game time in the coming weeks" he said.

"It's far from ideal but that's football and we just have to get on with it.

"Recent results have been frustrating but we've lost the same numbers of games this season as the league leaders.

"We've drawn too many times despite dominating the vast majority of them.

"We need to be more clinical in front of goal and we know that."

The Candystripes did hit UCD for seven in their last meeting.

Ruaidhri Higgins is reading nothing into that ahead of this game however, and insists three points is all that matters in this third clash of the campaign.

"They really bounced back after that game and we've prepared for nothing less than a difficult game on the road."