This weekend sees a full complement of fixtures in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division in a week that could see Cork City finally crowned champions.
Friday (All kick-offs are 7:45pm unless specified)
Bohemians Vs Cork City
All eyes will be on Dalymount Park this Friday night as Cork City can finally put the seal on their SSE Airtricity League title, provided they pick up three points against a Bohemians side that suffered a huge blow to their European aspirations after going down 1-0 at Sligo Rovers last Saturday.
However, manager Keith Long should be delighted with the season his side have had after many – myself included – had tipped The Gypsies to suffer the first relegation of their illustrious history before a ball was kicked.
It was in fact Bohs who ended Cork City’s magnificent unbeaten run back in July and that, coupled with the mid-season departures of Sean Maguire and Kevin O’Connor, seems to have knocked the stuffing out of Cork, who have won just twice from their last seven league matches – narrowly beating Drogheda United and Finn Harps.
That’s hardly title-winning form but Cork will surely get the two points needed to secure a first League of Ireland title since 2005, even if they don’t get them this Friday night.
Odds: Bohemians 13/2; draw 3/1; Cork City 4/9
Dundalk Vs Bray Wanderers
Those who travel up to Dalymount and indeed those who watch from back home in Cork will no doubt have one eye on events at Oriel Park. The reason being that The Leesiders will be crowned champions no matter what happens in their match, should Dundalk fail to beat Bray Wanderers.
The Lilywhites reached a third consecutive FAI Cup final on Tuesday night after 120 rip-roaring minutes against a feisty Shamrock Rovers side in what was truly a classic cup tie atmosphere at Tallaght Stadium.
Perhaps bizarrely, Bray can still qualify for Europe despite all the off-field problems which have marred the club’s season. The latest chapter of this ongoing saga came last week when Harry Kenny, who to his credit has conducted himself in the most professional manner, announced that he’ll be departing the Carlisle Grounds at the end of the current campaign to take up a player development role within the FAI and that could well result in Bray’s year ending in a whimper.
Odds: Dundalk 1/4; draw 9/2; Bray Wanderers 10/1
Galway United Vs St. Patrick’s Athletic
With just three points separating four teams from 7th to 10th, arguably the game of the weekend takes place at Eamonn Deacy Park where Galway United (in 10th place on 33 points) welcome St Patrick’s Athletic (in 8th place on 34 points).
Galway are showing some real character of late and equalised twice at Bray Wanderers last week to go four league matches unbeaten and secure what could well become a valuable point.
On the other hand, St. Pat’s threw away what would have been another crucial three points, conceding in the fifth minute of stoppage time to draw with Limerick at Richmond Park.
It’s absolutely imperative that Liam Buckley’s side get something from this match as their two remaining games are against champions-elect Cork City and European-chasing Derry City, so the stakes couldn’t be much higher.
Odds: Galway United 6/4; draw 5/2; St Patrick’s Athletic 13/8
Derry City Vs Finn Harps
Derry City can all but secure European football for the second year in a row should they overcome relegation-threatened Finn Harps in the north-west derby at Maginn Park. Victory over Drogheda United last time out put an end to a barren run of form which saw the Candystripes lose three league games on the bounce, conceding an alarming eleven goals in the process.
Defeat to Dundalk’s second string in Ballybofey last weekend means relegation is looking increasingly likely for Harps, who are now four points adrift of safety with an inferior goal difference to that of their rivals. You would think that seven points from their final three matches is the minimum that is needed if Ollie Horgan’s side are to arrest their ominous slide back into the First Division.
Odds: Derry City 4/9; draw 10/3; Finn Harps 6/1
Shamrock Rovers Vs Sligo Rovers (8pm)
Shamrock Rovers know three points against a struggling Sligo Rovers in Tallaght will seal European qualification for the fourth consecutive season. Stephen Bradley has definitely stamped his authority on the team in what has been his first full season in charge and Tuesday night’s FAI Cup semi-final replay demonstrated that. They were very much in the faces of Dundalk and were unlucky to fall at the last hurdle but their disciplinary record remains a huge issue that Bradley needs to address for next season.
Sligo recorded a priceless win over Bohemians in their last league outing but they are still just one point above the drop zone and far from securing their Premier Division status for next season. Their final three matches are; Shamrock Rovers (away), Derry City (home) and Drogheda United (away).
Odds: Shamrock Rovers 7/10; draw 13/5; Sligo Rovers 4/1
Limerick Vs Drogheda United (6:30pm)
One more win should be enough for Limerick to retain their Premier Division status, so what a time it is to face already relegated Drogheda United at the Markets Field.
Limerick are unbeaten in their last three league matches while Drogheda haven’t picked up a league win since April in a record that has now spanned an embarrassing 20 games. Limerick will surely all but get over the line on Saturday.
Odds: Limerick 2/7; draw 9/2; Drogheda United 17/2