First Division preview - Round 3
With all ten First Division teams respective seasons now finally up and running after so much fixture disruption, expect the tempo of the second tier to shift up a gear as the action heats up with some massive fixtures in the coming weeks.
Wexford FC V Drogheda United
Despite heading to Longford last weekend with plenty of confidence, after an opening day away win over Cabinteely, Wexford FC struggled greatly with the step up in class of opponent as the Midlanders strolled to a a 3-0 win.
However, Damien Locke's men did have their moments offensively and causing particular threat up front was on loan Shamrock Rovers man, Aaron Dobbs. Should the Wexford native get off the mark quickly at Ferrycarrig Park, he could be a real thorn in the side for opposition defences as the season goes on.
In saying that, Drogheda United look to have too much fire power for last seasons second bottom side in the First Division and the "Drogs" displayed that power by putting six past a woeful Athlone Town on Sunday.
Rookie manager, Tim Clancy will be hopeful of more goals in what will be his first away assignment in management, while another clean sheet is more than realistic against a side who only won on four occasions in 2017.
PREDICTION: Wexford FC 0-3 Drogheda United
Shelbourne FC V Longford Town
Yet to win this season, Shelbourne FC will be feeling the pressure as they host an in-form promotion contender, Longford Town.
Claiming a 3-1 win over Neale Fenn's charges towards the tail-end of last season, Owen Heary certainly knows how to get the better of the Midlands outfit and will be hoping to deploy his not so secret weapon in the guise of Longford Town legend, Davy O'Sullivan.
Eighty-two goals in just one-hundred-and-sixty appearances for "De Town", O'Sullivan is the clubs all-time leading goal-scorer and has vowed not to celebrate, against the club he lifted the First Division title with in 2014, should he score on Friday night.
Starting the new campaign with four points from two games, Longford boss Neale Fenn has stressed the importance of picking up any sort of result in difficult tests such as this one and would probably take a point ahead of kick-off if offered, given the fact his team will be expected to claim yet another cricket score win over local rivals, Athlone Town at the City Calling Stadium next weekend.
"Shels" claimed a credible 1-1 draw away to Finn Harps last time out and will be desperate not to loose at home, following a 2-1 opening day away defeat to Dublin rivals, UCD.
PREDICTION: Shelbourne FC 1-1 Longford Town
Galway United V Cabinteely
Also with four points after their opening two league games is Shane Keegan's, Galway United. The red hot title favorites followed up their curtain raising 4-1 win at home to Athlone with a credible share of the spoils away to UCD AFC last time out (1-1).
Cabinteely are only above crisis club, Athlone Town on goal difference after a shocking start to their 2018 campaign. Back to back home defeats versus Wexford FC and Cobh Ramblers respectively leaves Pat Devlin's side looking like easy fish to fry for an explosive side like Galway United, who currently posses one of the most in-form strikers in the land, Danny Furlong.
Four goals in just two outings for Furlong, who returned to League of Ireland football after a professional spell away in New Zeland football, has seen the former Wexford man go into unbackable favoritism for this seasons golden boot and the number nine will fancy adding a few more to his early season tally against a lackluster Dublin outfit.
PREDICTION: Galway United 4-0 Cabinteely
Athlone Town V UCD AFC
No points, ten goals conceded and just one scored, Athlone Town will once again prove to be the League of Ireland's desperate whipping boys for 2018. The clubs on field crisis is starting to look just as serious as the off-field issues at Lissywoolen and with UCD's star-man, Georgie Kelly yet to get off the mark for 2018, we could see yet another drubbing for the leagues oldest club in this round of matches.
PREDICTION: Athlone Town 0-6 UCD AFC
Cobh Ramblers V Finn Harps
A St.Patrick's Day special at St.Colman's Park as two of the countries most loved managers square off in a big game at the County Cork venue.
Stephen Henderson's "Rams" followed up their impressive point away to Longford on opening weekend with an important 1-0 away win over Cabinteely, while they also enjoyed EA Sports Cup progression midweek as the "Islanders" edged past fellow First Division side, Wexford FC via a penalty shoot-out in Ferrycarrig.
Ollie Horgan will be hoping his Harps players face no more fixture disruption this season, as the Donegal outfit finally started their campaign at home to Shelbourne on Friday night. A 1-1 draw was more than acceptable, while the midweek EA Sports Cup tie at home to Mayo League was a total thriller! Almost blowing a 4-0 lead, Harps clung on against the representative side in a seven goal match-up at Finn Park to advance.
In fact, that storyline may be a sign of things to come for Horgan , with many suggestion his side will have no issue in scoring goals but Ciaran Gallagher may be a busier goalkeeper than ideal this season.
Thankfully, Saturday's hosts are not exactly prolific in front of goal and while they will fancy their chances of repeating their last result, a 1-0 win, a share of the spoils is perhaps more realistic.
PREDICTION: Cobh Ramblers 1-1 Finn Harps