Premier Division preview - Round 13
You get the feeling this could be a pivotal weekend in the story that is the 2018 SSE Airtricity League Premier Division as Shamrock Rovers under-fire boss, Stephen Bradley faces into a game with struggling Limerick knowing anything other than a win could spell the end of his Tallaght tenure. Equally as compelling is the clash of two sides putting six match winning streaks on the line at Oriel Park as Dundalk FC host a resurgent Derry City. Speaking of resurgence, Bray Wanderers caretaker manager, Graham Kelly will be hoping his "Seagulls" can follow up the midweek win over Shamrock Rovers by claiming another three points, this time against a free-falling Waterford. Elsewhere, Bohemians host Cork City in the live game on Eir sport, while Sligo Rovers and St.Pat's will both fancy their chances of collecting three points when the former champions meet at the Showgrounds on Saturday.
Shamrock Rovers V Limerick FC
Coming into the Tallaght cauldron off the back of three consecutive league defeats, Shamrock Rovers must respond when second bottom placed Limerick arrive for battle on Friday night. It's been the lack of fight shown by Limerick in recent weeks that has irked a rapidly dwindling home support at Market Fields and even the most loyal of "Super Blues" supporter will lack confidence at a ground they have struggled for results in recent years.
As for the hosts, six defeats in twelve league matches has left the "Hoops" already looking out of a potential title race, while European qualification is now also in doubt with the Dublin club trailing fourth placed Waterford by five points at present. However, given the newly promoted sides huge selection crisis currently on-going due to suspensions, Shamrock Rovers fans will expect nothing less than a quick turn around in the coming weeks and given Limerick's woeful defensive record this season you'd have to expect a Rovers response.
PREDICTION: Shamrock Rovers 3-1 Limerick FC
Dundalk FC V Derry City
Undoubtedly the game of the weekend, it could be argued this has the potential to be the game of the season so far as high-flying Dundalk welcome a red-hot Derry City to County Louth.
Six league wins in a row each, Derry City have been re-energised by the clubs return to the Brandywell Stadium, where the "Candystripes" hold a 100% record to date. However, Dundalk are unbeaten home and away this term in all competitions and with the likes of Michael Duffy and Patrick Hoban in fantastic form this season, this is well and truly Derry City's acid test for 2018.
Speaking on last night's Series 2, Episode 9 of Between the Stripes LOI podcast, Derry City hero, Rory Patterson dismissed claims by his teammate Rory Hale that City are genuine title contenders this season. Making the bold statement on last weeks show, Patterson responded last night by saying: "We better put a gag on Rory (Hale), we know in the dressing room that European qualification is our target."
In truth, those comments are probably are fair assessment on where Kenny Shiels side are at present. Undoubtedly an excellent side that play really attractive football, Derry City may just lack the know how when it comes to winning these big head to head show downs in a title race, a situation Dundalk are more than accustomed to since Stephen Kenny's arrival in 2013.
PREDICTION: Dundalk 3-1 Derry City
Bohemians V Cork City
"Bohs" winger, Keith Ward has admitted the "Gypsies" must use Friday's Dublin derby victory as a springboard for better things this season, following an inconsistent season to date. Monday's 3-1 defeat away to Derry City at the fortress Brandywell sees the Dublin club remain just two points clear of eight placed Sligo, ahead of welcoming the 2017 double winners to Dalymount Park.
Unlike Derry, Keith Long's team have been far from in-penetrable on home soil but the "Gypsies" did claim a win and a draw against the champions last season, meaning the hosts won't be short of confidence despite Cork's superior league position.
John Caulfield's "Rebels" are yet to hit top gear this season, despite winning eight of their eleven league games. With the defending champions playing host to leaders Dundalk next weekend, it is important City don't allow a two point lead to be extended ahead of that showdown tie at Turners Cross.
PREDICTION: Bohemians 0-1 Cork City
Waterford FC V Bray Wanderers
Already without star midfielders Stanley Aborah and Bastian Hery, following the "battle of the RSC" a few weeks ago, Waterford FC saw red again midweek as both Sander Puri and Gavan Holohan were sent for early showers in the "Blues" 1-0 away loss at Richmond Park. That has left manager Alan Reynolds with quite a selection headache as the newly promoted side appear to be slipping out of the title race.
As for bottom side Bray Wanderers, the "Seagulls" finally collected their first win of the season this week as they stunned Stephen Bradley's Shamrock Rovers at the Carlise Grounds. On loan forward, Ronan Coughlan was the match winner and the youngster will be hoping Waterford's suspension crisis can allow him to grab the headlines once more on Friday night.
Bray Wanderers have been much improved since the departure of manager Dave Mackey and they stand every chance of adding to their win midweek with a positive result here.
PREDICTION: Bray Wanderers 1-1 Waterford FC
Sligo Rovers V St.Patrick's Athletic
Bouncing back from Friday's defeat to Cork City with a comfortable 1-0 win over nine-man Waterford, "Saints" boss Liam Buckley will be looking for his charges to add some consistency to their game as Pats travel to a struggling Sligo.
The "Bit O'Red" clinched a crucial 2-1 win in Limerick at the weekend to move clear of the Munster club in the relegation play-off stakes but another lackluster attacking display against Cork midweek has done little to inspire supporters confidence.
Meetings between these two famous old clubs have been extremely tight in recent years with four draws last season, three of which ended 1-1. Expect another cagey encounter at the Showgrounds but it's the visitors who look more likely given their attacking options in the likes of Keegan, Fagan, Byrne and Brennan.
PREDICTION: Sligo Rovers 0-1 St.Pat's
For in depth previews and discussion to all of this weekends games, plus interviews from the likes of Keith Ward and Rory Patterson, be sure to check out Series, Episode 9 of Between the Stripes LOI podcast, which can also be subscribed to on Itunes.