First Division preview - Round 5
One the the headline acts of the 2018 First Division season takes place this coming Good Friday as Neale Fenn's Longford Town travel to title rivals, Galway United for a Western showdown. Elsewhere, last season's second and third face off as Cobh Ramblers host an in-form UCD, while there's important clashes between Wexford FC and Shelbourne and Cabinteely and Drogheda United, while Finn Harps will be looking to bolster their goal difference ehen they travel to a pretty miserable Athlone Town.
Galway United V Longford Town.
Galway United will be looking to reclaim top spot this Good Friday despite facing the stiff opposition of Longford Town at Deacy Park. The Midlands outfit come into this away trip as the latest team to hand out a hammering to Athlone Town, while Galway will be looking to take some of their frustrations out on Neale Fenn's charges after the "Tribesmen" let a two goal cushion slip away to Drogheda United on Monday.
Considering Shane Keegan's troops also had a man advantage thanks to a sending off for the hosts, Galway United's defenders are likely to have face a few extra drills in training ahead of this crunch encounter.
"De Town" also let a two goal lead slip in their opening game of the season against Cobh Ramblers at City Calling Stadium, while they've failed to keep a clean sheet in all but one of their four matches so far this season. Manager, Neale Fenn has admitted his concerns regarding Longford's defensive record and his back four will need to stay on guard for the entire ninety-five minutes against a Galway side containing lethal marksman, Danny Furlong.
Former Wexford Youths striker, Furlong has already recorded six goals upon his return to Irish football just a couple of weeks ago and looks a certainty for the golden boot in 2018. However, Longford have attacking threats of their own in the likes of Chris Mulhall, Sam Verdon and Dean Byrne and that should lead to a goalfest on Friday night.
PREDICTION: Galway United 3-2 Longford Town
Wexford FC V Shelbourne.
David O'Sullivan has burst into life at his new club Shelbourne and the Longford Town legend (that's up for debate after his hat-trick against "De Town" a fortnight ago) was again the match winner on Friday night last as "Shels" claimed a crucial 1-0 win over Cobh Ramblers.
Now just three points off the early pace setters, Shelbourne should find themselves in the play-off places at the very least come this Easter weekend as they face a lackluster, Wexford FC.
Damien Locke's men showed spirit with an improved display during their 1-0 defeat to Finn Harps last time out, this of course came off the back of Wexford's 8-1 home humiliation at the hands of Drogheda United.
With just two goals to their credit so far this season, Wexford FC are offering next to nothing in terms of improvement on last seasons showings and it;s hard to see anything other than a third straight win for Owen Heary's "Reds".
PREDICTION: Wexford FC 0-4 Shelbourne
Cobh Ramblers V UCD AFC.
The "Rams" pipped the "Students" to the runners-up place in last seasons First Division won by runaway leaders Waterford, however there is a feeling of change in the air early on in 2018 with Collie O'Neill's UCD been talked about as possible title contenders.
"College" are unbeaten this season and even managed to advance to the next stage of the League Cup midweek with a comfortable 2-0 away win against Athlone Town. Searching for a third win on the bounce, the form of last seasons golden boot winner, Georgie Kelly has aided UCD's recent run of form.
As for Stephen Henderson's side, Cobh come into this home tie on a two match losing streak and will need to turn those fortunes around quickly or face being potentially cut off from the play-off pack.
PREDICTION: Cobh Ramblers 0-2 UCD AFC
Cabinteely V Drogheda United.
It's been a woeful start to the season for Cabinteely, who have lost every game so far, bar their recent meeting with Athlone Town, who are the league's whipping boys again this season. However, even that win for "Cabo" highlighted weaknesses in Pat Devlin's squad as the Dublin club could only put two past a goalkeeperless Athlone, who astonishingly managed a second-half equaliser only to lose parity moments later.
Kieran "Marty" Waters appears to be a shadow of the player seen at Stradbrook last season but "Cabo" will rightly be looking to the former Bray Wanderers and Shamrock Rovers star for inspiration on Good Friday.
Tim Clancy's Drogheda certainly need no added inspiration this season, having netted eighteen goals in just four league games, a division high it goes without saying. Worrying for the hosts, star striker, Lee Duffy retuerns from suspension for the County Louth side and he will be looking to add to the hat-trick he recorded in "Drogs" recent 8-1 demolition of Wexford FC.
Only one way this games going.....Away win.
PREDICTION: Cabinteely FC 1-4 Drogheda United
Athlone Town V Harps.
While Athlone managed to pull a goalkeeper out of somewhere for Saturday's Midlands derby with Longford Town, their new man between the sticks was unable to prevent the Red and Black side of the Midlands steaming their old foes by five goals to one.
Many are beginning to label Aaron Callaghan's team as the worst in First Division history and both Kieran Burke and Jon Brier stated their belief that Athlone will end the 2018 season without a single point on last night's latest episode of Between the Stripes LOI podcast. Guest on the show, Declan "Fabio" O'Brien, a former Athlone player, revealed his fears that the Blue and Black may not even reach the end of the current season.
Finn Harps will be aiming to bounce back from their midweek defeat at United Park and the bookies make them unbackable favorites to do so with a walkover three points here.
PREDICTION: Athlone Town 0-5 Finn Harps
For in depth previews and discussion of all the above fixtures, why not listen to Series 2, Episode 6 of Between the Stripes LOI podcast. Guests included Stephen Rice, "Fabio" O'Brien and Galway fan, Julian Canny. Also on Itunes.