Premier Division preview - Round 9
Just six points separate leaders Cork City and fifth placed St.Patrick's Athletic as we head into yet another action packed week of League of Ireland action. With a full card of top-flight fixtures being quickly followed by EA Sports Cup matches on Easter Monday, this is a crucial period in the early domestic calendar.
Limerick FC V Waterford FC.
Despite a poor showing in defeat away to St.Patrick's Athletic last time out, Tommy Barrett will be pleased overall with his start in management as Limerick FC find themselves seven points clear of the automatic relegation position at present. Having taken an 8-0 battering away to Dundalk a couple of weeks ago, the Market Field outfit have recovered well and should be in a defiant mode for the visit of Munster rivals, Waterford FC.
Alan Reynold's "Blues" come into this encounter off the back of a historic 2-1 home win against the mighty Shamrock Rovers in front of the RTE cameras last Friday night and will be looking to claim a three points that could leave Waterford top of the table come close of business this weekend.
Given the form of Waterford's recent acquisitions such as Bastian Hery, Courtney Duffus and Gavan Holohan, you would have to expect the visitors to have too much fire power for a Limerick side struggling defensively more than most this season.
PREDICTION: Limerick FC 0-2 Waterford FC
Shamrock Rovers V Sligo Rovers.
Having suffered defeat away to newly promoted Waterford last time out, Shamrock Rovers will step out in front of an expectant home crowd at the Tallaght Stadium on Good Friday, where low on confidence Sligo are the visitors.
Defensive calamities have cost the "Bit O'Red" dear so far this season and more slack rearguard action handed three points to Stephen Kenny's Dundalk in a 2-0 defeat last Saturday. However, former Tallaght man Kenny did admit post-match that Sligo Rovers were the best team his "Lilywhites" had come up against so far this season and if Ger Lyttle's charges can sharpen up in front of goal, they should cause issues for a home side who have real concerns between the posts at present.
Both Kevin Horgan and the recently reinstated Tomer Chencinski have been at fault on a number of occasions for goals conceded by the "Hoops" in 2018 and manager, Stephen Bradley is beginning to take flak from supporters who feel the goalkeeping position should have been addressed in the off-season.
Despite that situation plus suspensions and injuries at the back, Rovers attacking options such as Graham Burke, Brandon Miele, Ronan Finn, Dan Carr and Gary Shaw should contain more than enough quality to see off a struggling Sligo side.
PREDICTION: Shamrock Rovers 2-1 Sligo Rovers
Dundalk V Bohemians.
Seven games into their 2018 SSE Airtricity League Premier Division campaign and Stephen Kenny's Dundalk are yet to concede a single goal this season! Despite a sloppy start to proceedings at the Showgrounds on Saturday, the County Louth side eventually showed their quality at the other end of the pitch as goals from in form duo Patrick Hoban and Michael Duffy sealed a fourth win of the campaign.
As for Keith Long's "Bohs", many pundits pinpointed the "Gypsies" last game as a must win affair as a hapless Bray Wanderers visited Dalymount Park. Despite being recognised as the spiritual home of Irish football, the Dublin club have struggled on their own patch in recent seasons and it appeared as more points were about to be dropped on Friday night until Dinny Corcoran popped up with a last-gasp winner to send the Bohemians faithful into raptures at the famous old ground.
While the Capital club will obviously be looking to use that recent win over the "Seagulls" as a momentum builder for the coming weeks, given Dundalk's invincible form at the back this season it's almost impossible to see anything other than a home win here.
PREDICTION: Dundalk 2-0 Bohemians
Derry City V St.Patrick's Athletic.
Aiming for a third win on the bounce at the new Brandywell Stadium, Derry City welcome St.Pat's on Friday night in what is a huge game for both sides. Just one point separates the "Candystripes" and the "Saints" with inconsistency holding both teams back in their respective quests for European qualification.
Kenny Shiels City side faced disruption last week when their game against Dundalk was postponed due to international call-ups at underage level, while St.Pat's bounced back from their derby defeat versus Shamrock Rovers with a well deserved 1-0 triumph at home to Limerick.
Simon Madden impressed greatly during that game at Richmond Park and his manager, Liam Buckley will be looking for more of the same from his attack minded full-back, who of course represented Derry City with great pride for many years.
With a 50% win rate away from home this season in the league, St.Pat's will fancy their chances of ending Derry's unbeaten start at their new look home, however, a strong defensive performance will be required from the side who have the wisdom of Ger O'Brien on their coaching staff these days. A tough one to call for sure but Derry City will certainly be hopeful of adding at least a point to their tally in this latest home game.
PREDICTION: Derry City 1-1 St.Pat's
Bray Wanderers V Cork City.
It may sound crazy to say at this early stage of the season but already discussion has begun on what looks to be Bray Wanderers certain relegation from the Premier Division. On this weeks Series 2, Episode 6 of Between the Stripes LOI podcast, co-hosts Kieran Burke & Jonathan Brier were unanimous in their belief the automatic relegation race has already reached it's conclusion and anything other than an upset of the season result, as Cork City come to town, would only cement that opinion further among the League of Ireland community.
Champions Cork collected more silverware last weekend as they hammered St.Mary's 5-0 in the Munster Senior Cup final while remaining on top of the Premier table without playing. With so many attacking players on form for John Caulfield it's impossible to see anything other than a cricket score at the Carlise Grounds on what could turn out to be a very bad Friday for the Wicklow club.
PREDICTION: Bray Wanderers 0-5 Cork City
For in depth previews and discussion on all of the above matches, check out Series 2, Episode 6 of Between the Stripes LOI podcast, featuring guests Declan "Fabio" O'Brien, Stephen Rice and Julian Canny. Also available on Itunes.