The race for the SSE Airtricity Premier Division league title is over as the potential showdown didn't materialise, but there will be a shootout this evening between the bottom two sides as they look to avoid the drop.
Shamrock Rovers meet Derry City on Sunday in a dead-rubber fixture after the Candystripes dropped points in Sligo on Monday night, confirming the Hoops as champions.
As that was transpiring, UCD were battling to a point in Tolka Park to extend their advantage over Finn Harps.
That now stands at three points, meaning it’s close to a must-win fixture for the Donegal side.
A draw would leave them needing to beat Drogheda United away from home on the final day and hope that the Students come away with nothing against the champions in the UCD Bowl. Harps have just one victory out of 17 fixtures on the road this season so there’s no doubt
Ollie Horgan has led his side to safety when all seemed lost. They’ve come back from the dead in the league, come from behind in play-off matches and caused giantkillings along the way.
This is arguably the toughest scenario given how poor results have been this campaign.
Horgan has just one relegation on his record since taking the job in 2013 and securing promotion – a considerable achievement and they immediately bounced back after it.
Having admitted he came close to walking away in the off-season as their squad was decimated by fellow Premier Division sides, it could be the end of an era and the longest-serving manager in the league if things don’t go their way tonight.
College didn’t win a league game until May, which was the first meeting of these teams in Finn Park. They had just nine points in mid-July yet come into this fixture on the verge of avoiding the automatic drop.
Avoiding defeat will give them a massive chance of facing the First Division side in the play-off.
Elsewhere the race for Europe continues. St Patrick’s Athletic suffered a big setback with the heavy defeat in Tallaght last week as Dundalk struck late for a point in a six-goal thriller with Sligo Rovers.
It means the Lilywhites could seal third place with a victory at home to Bohemians if Pat’s drop points in Sligo tonight.
Declan Devine discovered the fragilities in the Bohs team first-hand in his opening match in the dugout last week, as well as their woes in front of goal.
Pat’s will have to bounce back and may find it tough as the Bit O' Red have a found a degree of form in beating unbeaten in three despite having little to play for.
Finally Shelbourne’s home game with Drogheda United has little riding on it, although the visitors could go level on points with their opponents. Both sides are assured safety with Shels preparing for their FAI Cup final date with Derry.
Finn Harps v UCD, Finn Park, 8pm
Weather-dependent, there will be a massive crowd in Finn Park tonight for a game which could be the first step to safety for the home side or end in relegation.
Harps are fundraising for their new stadium with work set to restart in the coming months. Dropping to the second tier would be a considerable blow given the momentum they’ve built under Ollie Horgan.
Looking ahead to the game, Horgan admitted that his side's top flight status is hanging by a thread but added that they're still fighting.
"This game is almost as good as a play-off in itself," he said. "UCD have probably had our number in the games so far this season and we're under no illusions as to the threat they’ll present.
"They’ve lost a couple of their key players over the season in both Colm Whelan to injury and Liam Kerrigan to Italy and to be fair to them they haven’t missed a step. Other lads have stepped in and if you’re looking at the recent form, they are in a much healthier position than ourselves.
"If we can’t beat UCD once out of four attempts, the reality is we probably don’t deserve to stay in the division. That is no disrespect to UCD, but if you can’t beat the teams around you then you don’t give yourself any real hope of finishing above them come season’s end."
In team news David Webster misses out through injury, while James McKeown, Ryan Connolly, Eric McWoods and Conor Tourish are doubts.
For UCD Andy Myler was suspended last week as he will be again tonight. He watched his side come from behind against Drogheda United, showing character beyond their years.
Myler’s work is admirable particularly in the latter part of the season. They lost Colm Whelan to injury, Liam Kerrigan to Como FC and other players have also departed. It’s an experienced bench but the likes of Jack Keaney and Dara Keane have stepped up to lead College to their current ninth place standing.
A win here would crown a great effort and a play-off date in November.
Dundalk v Bohemians, Casey's Field, 7:45pm
Stephen O’Donnell took positives and negatives from his side’s display last week. They fell behind despite a good start, took the lead before once again trailing in injury-time.
Keith Ward’s late goal could be massive in the battle for third place.
Bohemians could be an ideal opponent as Declan Devine assesses his group, knowing there is considerable work to do to try to shape them for the 2023 season.
Sligo Rovers v St Patrick’s Athletic, The Showgrounds, 7:45pm
Fresh from playing their part in the direction of the Premier Division trophy with a 0-0 draw against Derry City, Sligo Rovers welcome St Patrick's Athletic to the Showgrounds.
It's fourth against fifth in the table but Rovers have no hope over overtaking the visitors before the end of the season with Saints leading by 12 points.
Instead Sligo will be looking over their shoulders and attempting to make sure that Bohemians don't overtake them in the final two games, while the Saints have Dundalk and third place very much in their sights.
Shelbourne v Drogheda United, Tolks Park, 7:45pm
Shelbourne will sign off on a very solid season on their return to the top-flight under Damien Duff.
The Reds will salute their supporters ahead of the Cup final date with Derry and hope to finish in style.
UCD took four points off these teams in the last week - which will disappoint both managers - and United can still catch Duff's side.
Shels head coach Damien Duff is boosted by the return of Sean Boyd who is available again after serving a two-match suspension.
Reflecting on the campaign overall, Duff said: "I’m very proud first and foremost to lead the team out at Tolka, but listen it all comes down to results as well for me. I’m not happy if we don’t win.
"At times it’s been a difficult place for teams to come... but at other times not so. We’ve taken a lot of points on the road which really stood to us as the year wore on. We want to build on what we’ve done this year.
"To do that we really need to make Tolka a fortress every time. That’s where the foundation of a successful club is built on, home form, consistency in Tolka.
"The supporters have been wonderful this year, results, good or bad, they’ve got behind the team, bought into what we’re trying to do, and that means a lot to me and the players and staff."
Watch Shamrock Rovers v Derry City in the SSE Airtricity League live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player on Sunday from 6.45pm
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