It's another Bank Holiday Monday and that means we're in the midst of the latest Friday-Monday-Friday turnaround in the SSE Airtricity Men's Premier Division.
Shamrock Rovers returned to the summit on Friday with a 2-0 win over Dundalk, despite losing captain Ronan Finn to a red card - the fourth they have incurred in their last two matches - and will look to build on that when they visit Sligo Rovers.
Derry City face a tough task in trying to bounce back from Friday's defeat to the Bit O' Red as they make the trek down to Inchicore to go up against an in-form St Patrick's Athletic who are just three points behind them and riding the crest of the new-manager-bounce wave.
Cork City also have the wind in their sails with three wins on the trot in spite of not having a permanent manager in place since Colin Healy's exit, but Bohemians have also got back to winning ways in time for the journey to Turner's Cross.
Drogheda United will be aiming to bounce back quickly from their defeat to Cork and Shelbourne will want to get back to scoring ways after three games without finding the net when they meet at Tolka Park, while Dundalk will view the visit of bottom side UCD to Oriel Park as an opportunity to make up for a run of four games without a win.
Cork City v Bohemians, Turner's Cross, 5pm
Cork City are looking to make it four wins in a row as they welcome Bohemians to Turner’s Cross.
The Leesiders have made serious strides in recent weeks, beating Sligo Rovers, Drogheda United and reigning champions Shamrock Rovers in their last three games, and they will be looking to add the scalp of Declan Devine’s high-flying Bohs.
City remain in the relegation play-off position. However, another victory could see them leapfrog Drogheda and back into the mid-table mix ahead of the mid-season break.
Similarly, Bohs are unbeaten in their last three games and will be looking to build on Friday’s victory over Sligo Rovers as they attempt to play their way back into the title race.
The Gypsies are now only three points off top spot, with a game in hand on leaders Shamrock Rovers, and they will be looking to get all three points on their tricky trip south.
"I was delighted with the performance and delighted with the intensity of our game," said Devine, speaking about Friday’s win over the Bit O’ Red.
"It was a really positive performance. I think we've been playing a lot like that in games previously but without the cutting edge that we saw on Friday."
Bohs kicked off their 2023 league campaign with a 2-1 victory on Leeside and followed it up with a 5-0 win when the sides met at Dalymount Park in April.
"Cork have certainly stepped up a little gears over the last couple of weeks," said Devine. "They gave us a tough game down there, and when we played them in Dalymount, up until the sending-off, there wasn't much in the game.
"If you go to Cork with any other mindset than knowing it will be difficult to win in Turner's Cross, then you are in for a long night.
"We know we have to be absolutely at our best. We have to be ruthless in our approach, and we have to give a real high level of performance to come away from Turner's Cross with a result.’’
James McManus returns from suspension for Bohs, but Dean Williams (ankle) and Dylan Connolly (ribs) remain out, while Johnny Afolabi (ankle) remains a doubt.
Ally Gilchrist made his return for Cork City last time out against Drogheda.
Dundalk v UCD, Oriel Park, 5pm
Last time Dundalk met UCD, they won 2-0 at the Bowl and for Stephen O'Donnell, a similar result will be most welcome at Oriel after a difficult run.
Despite Shamrock Rovers going down to ten men in Tallaght on Friday, the Lilywhites were unable to make an impression on route to a two-goal defeat and that result had followed defeats on the road to St Patrick's Athletic and Derry City, which had sandwiched a 2-2 draw against Bohs when they had a let a two-goal lead slip.
Dundalk find themselves sixth consequently and they will want to close the six-point gap to the top-four places as quickly as possible against a UCD side who sit adrift at the bottom with just one win all season.
With a fixture against Cork City to come then on Friday before the mid-season break, midfielder Greg Sloggett was under no illusion about Dundalk's target over the coming week.
"It's a massive game against UCD," he told the club website.
"We need two wins in next week and, hopefully, it starts on Monday. All of our focus is on that. We need to respond properly because Friday night was very disappointing.
"UCD left Oriel Park with a point on the opening night of the season and you can’t rest on your laurels against them.
"They’re always a sticky opponent and we dropped points against them last year and we’ve already dropped two points against them this year so there’s no half-measures with them."
Manager Stephen O'Donnell was similarly adamant about the requirements to snap them out of their inconsistency, saying: "The players need to start putting their hands up now. Rather than having a good quantity of players, we need to have good quality. It's a big week ahead. When you go through a season you're going to have peaks and troughs. That’s the game. You have good stretches and bad stretches and we’re in a bad one at the minute. We’ll see how we react. You have to work hard to turn it around."
UCD have one win this season which came against Cork City in mid-April and other than another point earned against Bohs later that month, it's been slim pickings since on the results front and they find themselves further and further adrift of relegation play-off spot occupied by Cork. They will be without the suspended Jack Keaney.
Sligo Rovers v Shamrock Rovers, The Showgrounds, 6pm
It was a Friday of contrasts for the two Rovers before their meeting at the Showgrounds this evening.
Sligo Rovers had snapped a run of three defeats the previous Saturday when they beat Derry City, but six days later were beaten 2-0 by Bohemians.
Inconsistency has been an issue for John Russell's side this season and if they are to get back to winning ways they will have to end a run of eight games without a win from their recent head-to-heads against Shamrock Rovers, which stretches back to 2021, although they have managed to earn a number of draws against the Hoops in that run, including the 1-1 result on the opening weekend at the Showgrounds.
Centre-back John Mahon will be available after serving a one-match suspension last time out.
Shamrock Rovers, on the other hand, go into the bank holiday top of the standings after Friday's win over Dundalk although captain Ronan Finn's red card means he will miss the trip to Sligo, while Richie Towell is still serving his three-match ban and goalkeeper Alan Mannus (finger) remains out.
However, the Hoops will welcome back Sean Hoare, Johnny Kenny and Neil Farrugia from suspension, and Dylan Watts and Simon Power are also available.
Nevertheless, Stephen Bradley is not taking anything for granted in this away trip that precedes Friday's home match against UCD.
"I think we saw in Tallaght that Sligo are a good side and I've no doubt we'll see the best of them," he said.
"They have real qualities and we've got to be ready for that and respect that. Our levels have to be there where they have been the last two weeks, they can't be what we were against Sligo in Tallaght because that won't be enough. To go up there and get the win we know we have to be at our best.
"We like going (to the Showgrounds). It's a big pitch and we like playing on it. It's a tough place to go but we enjoy going there and (tonight) will be no different. We're ready to go and fully focused on trying to get three points."
St Patrick’s Athletic v Derry City, Richmond Park, 6.45pm
St Patrick’s Athletic are another form side in the Premier Division as Jon Daly’s side look to make it four wins in a row as they take on title contenders Derry City at Richmond Park.
The Saints have won five of their last six, with their only defeat a narrow 3-2 defeat to the champions, and should they see off the threat of the Candystripes today, they will move level on points with Ruaidhri Higgins' team and put themselves into the mix in the title race.
Saints will still be without Jake Mulraney who is serving the second game in the three-match suspension for his sending off against Dundalk, as well as centre-back Joe Redmond (hamstring).
Tom Grivosti (knee) will be a longer-term injury absence after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament late last month and subsequently undergoing surgery.
"We want to try to stay in a positive run of form, we've got a massive game against Derry that we need to try to get points from before we go to Drogheda where we'll be trying to finish off strongly before we have a little break," manager Daly told the club's YouTube channel.
"The league is very very tight, a couple of wins and you can shoot up the table and a couple of defeats and you are dragged back by the other teams so it's important that we keep focused on one game at a time and dont look too far ahead.
"Our full attention is now on Derry and we'll be doing everything we can to get the three points from that game.We have a few injury issues from both before and after the UCD game, before we make any decision on them, we are giving them as much time as possible to make the game."
Derry will be looking to regain their form ahead of the mid-season break having dropped five points in their last two games, drawing with Shels and losing in Sligo.
"There have been plenty of twists and turns so far this season and there will be plenty more to come," said Higgins.
"We wanted to stay in the mix while we recovered from several injury setbacks and we've managed to do that. I keep saying they're all big games when you're looking to challenge, and Monday's is certainly that.
"The squad is getting closer to full fitness, obviously with the exception of Colm Whelan and Ciaron Harkin, and we will continue to improve as a result," added Higgins, who will be boosted by the return of Sadou Diallo to the squad following suspension, while Derry have no other injury concerns.
"St Pats are on a great run and are probably the league's in-form team at this minute in time. Jon Daly and his staff have done a superb job since joining the club and they have quality all over the pitch.
"Inchicore is a venue we enjoy playing at and while I'm expecting a very difficult evening, I believe we have the quality to go there and try to get three points."
Shelbourne v Drogheda United, Tolka Park, 7.45pm
Shels and Drogheda kicks off at the traditional time of 7.45pm in the last of the five games.
The sides could not be separated in the first two league meetings and the visitors will be looking to bounce back from Friday’s defeat to stay clear of Cork City and that ninth place in the league.
In team news, Drogheda must plan without injured trio Evan Weir, Darragh Noone, and Warren Davis, while midfielder Ryan Brennan will miss out through suspension.
Shels have not scored in their last three matches, albeit the last two of those were creditable draws against Bohemians and Derry City bolstered by the best defensive record in the league - but they will hope Sean Boyd will regain sharpness after making his return.
Finding the balance between a stubborn defence and discovering an extra edge up front is something Shels boss Damien Duff is acutely aware of.
"Everything should be built on a solid defensive structure," he said. "We have that. The coaching staff have worked tirelessly with the team and lads have really bought into this. Now it's about kicking into gear and playing with a sense of freedom, keeping the football and looking after it."
Kian Leavy and Paddy Barrett remain sidelined however, although the former is expected back after the mid-season break.