European matters have been dominating proceedings when it comes to the League of Ireland, but the small matter of the title race will be back on the agenda this evening.

With Shamrock Rovers moving closer to European group stage qualification, a packed schedule awaits, leaving Dundalk and Derry City with an opportunity to make ground when the demands are high on the Dublin side.

Despite Derry's huge mid-season wobble, and Dundalk being in year one of the Stephen O’Donnell era, they are both still in the mix to challenge the Hoops.

Tonight the game can close to as few as four points, and with Stephen Bradley’s side facing a trip to the Brandywell next week in between their European game, a race which seemed already run could be alive again.

Elsewhere tonight, a struggling Finn Harps side are now bottom of the table and in desperate need for points as Drogheda United visit.

United have performed way beyond expectations as manager Kevin Doherty has somehow made up for the lost of a host of key players in the off-season.

UCD secured a point in Head in the Game Park on Monday to move above Harps, and with the sides meeting in a week’s time, the Donegal outfit need some momentum.

Dundalk v Derry City, Oriel Park, 7.45pm

Derry City's Declan Glass scored a hat-trick on debut last week

There is added spice to this game tonight in the aftermath of Mark Connolly's switching to Derry City following the expiry of his loan from Dundee United to Dundalk.

The sides drew 2-2 at Oriel Park on the opening night of the season, while Dundalk recorded a 2-1 victory at the Brandywell in May.

"There will obviously be a lot of focus on the lads in the Derry team who are coming back to Oriel Park," Lilywhites boss Stephen O'Donnell told the club website.

"A lot of them had a good history with Dundalk. They are all good lads, I know most of them, and they were excellent for Dundalk.

"They'll be looking forward to coming back and we look forward to welcoming them back but our crew here at the minute have been brilliant and we’re forming a new team, a new squad, and a new identity and, hopefully, in years to come we’ll be talking all about this current crop.

"We have already enjoyed some good memories this season. We have won 10 on the bounce at home and the players that we have now have been brilliant.

"Some of them have been here for a longer period of time but in the main, we have new players who we believe can establish themselves as firm favourites and really good Dundalk players in their own right from here on in."

City boss Ruaidhri Higgins is expecting a tough game as the second and third placed teams in the Premier Division table lock horns at Oriel Park.

Derry have returned to form as their injury woes wain, and with the addition of new players, but Higgins is wary of the Lilywhites.

He said: "We're coming up against a team that has a string of players who have won leagues and cups throughout their careers.

"They have some quality young players too, hungry for success and it's a good mix.

"I've said all along that they won't be far away come the end of the season and nothing has changed my mind since.

"We've improved ourselves in recent weeks- winning three and drawing two of our last five league games prior to Saturday's cup win.

"I'm delighted with the business we've done in the transfer window and we're looking forward to the rest of the season.

"I'd imagine it will be a decent contest because neither of these sides will be looking to park the bus.

"There won't be much in it but we'll be approaching the match as we do with any other, trying to win it."

Ryan Graydon is set to miss out having come off injured against Oliver Bond Celtic.

Will Patching is doubtful having missed the last few matches as well.

Finn Harps v Drogheda United, Finn Park, 8pm

Finn Harps are now bottom of the table

It’s been a miserable season so far in Ballybofey.

Ollie Horgan has tried to turn things around with a squad rejuvenation in the transfer window, but even that led to more despair last week.

James McKeown had a debut to forget with two mistakes to help Bohemians reach the next round of the FAI Cup at the home side’s expense in Finn Park.

McKeown will certainly prove an asset given his experience of over 450 games from Grimbsy Town in England.

But it summed up how this season has gone for Harps.

With so many key players leaving in the off-season, and the likes of Dave Webster suffering year-ending injuries, it was always going to be tough.

Now the genuine fear is automatic relegation could be on the cards.

UCD have shown their mettle, and while Harps have at least threatened to show their famous resistance in the face of adversity, the crunch period is approaching.

Horgan said "We last played Drogheda in May and at the time there were only a couple of points between the sides. Unfortunately for us they have kicked on massively while we have gone the other way entirely. Football is a results business, and we need to start getting results together."

Kevin Doherty will be wary of the very unlikely event that United could get sucked back into the mix. This game represents a chance to finish off Harps in terms of being challenger to their position this year.

Monday’s draw was a mixed display, and the concession of a goal before half-time to Thomas Lonergan particularly annoyed him.

Doherty said: "We started the game well and should have been 3-0 or 4-0 up. We have to be more clinical.

"Then we just, for whatever reason, just let them take control of the game. If you concede a goal like we did, you don't deserve to get anything out of the game. Everyone knows it."

United recorded a 3-1 win last time the teams met. Since then, Harps have managed just two draws from nine matches in all competitions.

David Webster misses out through injury for the Donegal men, while Elie-Gael N'Zeyi, Regan Donelon, Liam McGing and Barry McNamee are doubts