By Rob Wright
Bray Wanderers v Cork City
Bray Wanderers will be hoping to bounce back from Saturday’s defeat away to Champions Sligo Rovers but they come up against a Cork City team that played with real swagger in their 2-1 victory over Bohemians.
The Seagulls were second best against Sligo and had no answer to the likes of Anthony Elding and Ross Gaynor, but boss Pat Devlin has more options this time out as newly signed Danny Joyce and Paul Moffitt both come into the squad to face Cork.
Despite losing 3-0 to Sligo on Saturday Devlin may opt for the same starting eleven after he claimed that his side deserved something from that game.
"I was disappointed we didn't get something from Friday's game. Although I was a little disappointed with our first half performance, we did very well in the second half. We certainly stepped it up a gear after the break and I felt we deserved at least a draw - the final scoreline doesn't tell the true story of the game," he said.
Cork have enjoyed a solid start to the season with an opening day draw, holding Limerick in their first game in Thomond Park before Friday’s win against Bohemians.
After going behind to a first-half Owen Heary goal, the Rebels turned in a fine second half display to take all three points with Daryl Horgan in particular impressing. Horgan will again be expected to act as the City fulcrum and if Bray are unable to stop him, they will be in for a very testing evening.
Manager Tommy Dunne talked up the challenge that his side will face when he spoke to the Cork City official website. “Going to the Carlisle Grounds is always extremely tough. Bray started the season well with a win against Shelbourne, and although they were defeated by Sligo over the weekend, they were right in the tie until late on,” he said.
“We know it will be a tough match, but we have had a reasonably good start ourselves and we will be hoping to build on that by picking up the three points tomorrow night.”
However, despite being without the services of captain Dan Murray who has work commitments and Brian Lenehan, who continues to struggle with a groin injury, Cork should have enough to claim all three points.
Verdict: Cork City
Derry City v Drogheda United
Two games into the 2013 Airtricity Premier Divison and already Derry and Drogheda may be growing tired of the sight of each other.
This game will be the third time Derry and Drogheda meet each other this month after the sides were drawn together in the quarter-finals of the Setanta Cup.
Drogheda got the better of Derry that time out, edging to a narrow 3-2 aggregate victory courtesy of a 94th minute winner from Ryan Brennan and this game looks set to be another tight affair.
The Candystripes will come into the game in a buoyant mood after thrashing a poor UCD side 6-0 at on Friday evening. That result means that manager Declan Devine is likely to name an unchanged side.
Stewart Greacen, Paddy Kavanagh and Sean Houston all continue to recover from injury and are unlikely to feature against Drogheda.
Drogheda have just one point from their opening two games after a thrilling 2-2 draw with Limerick on Friday that saw two red cards and four penalties.
Cathal Brady comes back into the reckoning for manager Mick Cooke but Gary O’Neill and Alan McNally continue to be sidelined. Derek Prenedergast is still a week away from a return due to his ankle injury.
Cooke admits that his side have been lacking up front so far this season and he hopes to see that improve.
“I was glad that we got the point on Friday night against Limerick. It was always a worry that when they got the penalty that they would come back into the game and to their credit, that's what they did. I thought we were really poor in the final third. But we are up and running and that's the main thing. It's a sign of this league that only Sligo Rovers have a 100% record,” he said.
Given Derry and Drogheda’s familiarity with each other already this season, it’s not hard to imagine both sides cancelling each other out and despite City’s 6-0 romp against a weak UCD side, a draw appears to be the most likely outcome.
Dundalk v Sligo Rovers
Champions Sligo Rovers travel to Dundalk on Tuesday, eager to maintain their 100% start to the new league campaign.
Already a point clear of likely title rivals Shamrock Rovers and with this game in hand, manager Ian Baraclough will be hoping to open up an early lead over the chasing pack, however they may not have it their own way against Dundalk.
The home side come into the game on the back of two wins over Shelbourne – one in the EA Sports Cup and one in the league - and have made steady early progress under new manager Stephen Kenny.
Kenny has a full squad to choose from with no injury concerns and sees no reason why his side should go into Tuesday’s game in awe of their opponents.
“Our players have done brilliantly so far. We respect Sligo Rovers as Champions but we will continue to believe in ourselves. We have talented players at Dundalk and we will try to win every game. We want these players to reach their full potential at Dundalk,” he said.
Sligo have picked up where they left off last season and were impressive in their 3-0 victory over Bray Wanderers on Friday.
Any fears that the Champions would suffer without the likes of Mark Quigley and Jason McGuinness have quickly disappeared with the likes of new signings Evan McMillan and Anthony Elding slotting into Baraclough’s system seamlessly.
Elding in particular has started the season with a bang, scoring four goals in his first four games and fellow newcomer Kieran Djilali opened his account against Bray and will be pushing for a starting place.
Rovers will be without Jospeh Ndo who is recovering from a fractured bone in his hand and Pascal Millien, who is on international duty with Haiti. Danny North continues to be a long-term injury absentee although Iarfhlaith Davoren is back in training.
Despite the fine start to the season, Baraclough isn’t resting on his laurels and was even critical of his side in the wake of their win against Bray.
"I wasn't satisfied with the performance on Saturday, " he said. "We had to grind out the result which we did and scored goals but overall we can be much better. Four clean sheets is a fantastic way to start and that we can be pleased with.
"Dundalk will be full of confidence. Stephen has shown already with the players he brought in and the results that he can make a big improvement there and I expect a very hard game where we will have to produce a much better display," he added.
The statistics will make worrying reading for Dundalk. In their first four games of the season – two league and two Setanta Cup – Sligo have won all four, scoring twelve goals and conceding none and it’s difficult to envisage any way in which they won’t stretch that winning start against Dundalk.
Limerick v UCD
Unbeaten since their return to the Premier Division with two draws, Limerick will be hoping to claim their first victory of the season against a UCD side already struggling for form and yet to earn a point.
If they are to win however, Lims will have to keep their discipline better than they did in Friday evening’s 2-2 draw with Drogheda.
In an extraordinary game Stuart Taylor’s men conceded two penalties and had both Aaron Brown and Axel Bossekota shown the red card along with their manager who was sent to the stand.
As a result both Brown and Bossekota will be suspended for their game with UCD while Dom Foley and Rory Gaffney are both a week away from a return to fitness.
Despite the disciplinary problems, Taylor was proud of the fighting spirit his side displayed and said: "I am delighted with the attitude and application of the lads away to Drogheda United on Friday night, they showed great spirit in what proved to be a very difficult game. The way we played was excellent and I am really proud of all of them. "
Looking forward to the UCD game he added: “We have a very difficult game on Tuesday night at home to UCD and we will need to play really well against a team that like to get the ball down and play. I have known Martin (Russell) for a long time and his teams always like to play good passing football, so I know we will get nothing easy on Tuesday evening in Thomond.”
UCD come into this game on the back of a 6-0 thumping at the hands of Derry City. The Students so often confound pre-season predictions of their relegation but there’s a feeling that they could really struggle this year.
Manager Martin Russell will be without captain David O’Connor who was sent off against Derry, but Mark Langtry is available after a one-match ban, as is Barry McCabe who has recovered from a groin injury.
Russell is hoping to get a response from his players after the Derry game and believes a trip to Thomond may be just the tonic.
“The Limerick game will give us a chance to regroup and put in a better performance which will be required after Friday night’s disappointment against Derry City. But we have another game quickly in a great stadium like Thomond Park and we are hoping for a good result,” he said.
When the move to Thomond Park was first mooted, Limerick would have dreamed of many big occasions with a fiery atmosphere and a big crowd cheering on both teams. Sadly this game against UCD is unlikely to offer that, but it should give Limerick the opportunity to bag their first win of the season.
St Patrick’s v Shelbourne
St Patrick’s Athletic and Shelbourne both come into this Dublin derby on the back of defeats and eager to kick-start their season.
For the Saints it will be their second derby game in four days after losing 3-0 to Shamrock Rovers thanks to an uncharacteristic limp display, devoid of any real fight or passion.
Midfielder Conan Byrne admitted that St Pat’s were well below their best in Tallaght and is looking for an immediate response.
“To be honest after the disappointing result last Friday against Rovers, I’m just looking forward to getting back playing so soon so we can get things right on the pitch after a disappointing performance. We want to put things right after that game,” he told St Pat’s official website.
Manager Liam Buckley could hand new signing Stephen Maher a start as the midfielder is available for selection after serving a two-game suspension. Goalkeeper Dave Ryan is still recovering from a hand injury so Brendan Clarke will again start in goal.
Without a point from their opening two games, Shelbourne manager Alan Matthews’ first priority should be to ensure that he keeps all eleven players on the pitch after finishing both of their those games with ten men.
Paul Crowley’s red card against Bray with the game scoreless and Graham Gartland’s red against Dundalk with the teams tied at 1-1 proved to be decisive as Shels were unable to hold out with a one-man deficit.
Crowley and Gartland are both suspended for the trip to Richmond Park, while the Reds will also be without the injured Glenn Cronin and goalkeeper Eoin Comerford.
If Shels can keep their discipline, they can be a stubborn side to break down and with St Pat’s struggling for goals, we may well be in for a low scoring draw.