Four First Division sides begin their play-off campaigns tonight with the carrot of a place in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division if they can progress through three stages.

The teams ranked from second to fifth will play semi-finals over two legs in the coming days, before a one-off final next week to determine the opponent for the Premier Division outfit in the overall decider.

The prospect of a promotion looks good based on form lines alone.

Longford Town and UCD have overcome top tier outfits in the last two seasons to show it's very much realistic for the First Division team to progress through this format.

Secondly, the FAI Cup also demonstrated the potential. Waterford beat big guns St Patrick’s Athletic and Dundalk, while Treaty United put four goals passed the Students in the quarter-finals.

The Munster sides meet tonight thanks to their second and fifth place finishes, while a struggling Galway United take on Longford Town in the mid-table clash.

All four clubs have had differing seasons.

Waterford started extremely slowly before a managerial and then ownership change transformed their season.

Boss Danny Searle led the club to the semi-finals of the Cup but a flat performance against Shelbourne ruined a chance of a final appearance.

Nevertheless, they finished the league campaign with a win over Athlone and look well-placed to go all the way.

Treaty have once again overachieved on a miniscule budget by reaching this stage and also lost by just a single goal to Derry for a place in the Aviva Stadium.

Treaty United are looking to cause an upset against Waterford

Tommy Barrett will look to gather a lead in the Markets Field tonight before the difficult visit to the RSC on Saturday. The Blues have scored 10 goals in their last three home games in the league.

In the other clash, it’s fair to say Galway stuttered their way into this stage with just two wins in their last 11 matches.

The Tribesmen were top of the table for a period of the opening series and had looked set to battle it out with Cork for promotion.

But injuries and a loss of form badly impacted John Caulfield’s men, even relinquishing second place to Waterford in the end.

Hopes were high for United at this stage last year when coming in as the second placed team in the league as they ran Shels close for the title.

They took on Gary Cronin's Bray Wanderers and lost out in front of 5,000 fans when Brandon Kavanagh netted a stunning winner. Cronin will be looking to repeat the trick again, this time in charge of Longford Town, and with morale low in Galway it would be no surprise if he did.

United manager John Caulfield said: "Gary Cronin is probably the most experienced manager in the First Division - he always gets his team to the playoffs.

"Longford are the most experienced part-time team in the league with players like [Sam] Verdon, [Michael] Barker, [Michael] McDonnell, [Dylan] Barnett and [Shane] Elworthy.

"We know how good they are - we have played them a number of times this year. But we know we are at the business end of the season, and we know what we have to do.

"We are looking forward to both matches, we have been preparing hard over the last number of weeks with the play-offs in mind."

It has been a steady if unspectacular season for Longford as they achieved their goal of reaching the play-offs.

John Caulfield's Galway United need to turnaround their poor league form

They missed out on competing for automatic promotion which was no great shame given some big budgets set out in the division. Town can now try to reach the final with little discussion around them and considerable pressure on Galway based on how they’ve deteriorated as the season went on.

Finn Harps or UCD will await the winner of that game; they will face a strenuous test against the side which comes through the First Division stage.

Kick-off in the Market’s Field and Bishopsgate is 7:45pm.

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