Saints eye top spot but Mahon wary of Fingal

WITH Bohemians distracted by Setanta Cup duties this weekend, joint-leaders St Patrick’s Athletic have a chance to go clear at the top of the Airtricity League this evening.

But manager Pete Mahon knows that his unbeaten side will have to be at their best to see off the challenge of Premier Division newcomers and FAI Cup-holders Sporting Fingal at Richmond Park (kick off 7.35pm, RTÉ 2).

“Sporting must be the strongest promoted side for many a year and their team is littered with players who have won top honours,” says Mahon “I’m very familiar with some of the players at Liam Buckley’s disposal because they played under me at UCD and I’m delighted to see them doing so well.”

While captain Damian Lynch is rated doubtful for the home side with a thigh strain, former Pats midfielder Alan Kirby is back in the Fingal squad after injury.

Another Dublin derby will see Shamrock Rovers hoping to build on their first win of the season when they host UCD at Tallaght Stadium (8pm). But Rovers have a lengthy absentee list including Gary Twigg (calf), Dessie Baker (broken arm), Pat Sullivan (knee) and Stephen Bradley (wrist). There are also doubts about the availability of Pat Flynn, Paddy Kavanagh and Danny Murphy, while Chris Turner is suspended. James Chambers returns from suspension and Thomas Stewart is a new addition.

For the Students, midfielder Stephen Roche has recovered from the illness which kept him out of the Bray Wanderers game and keeper Ger Barron is also fit for Airtricity League selection for the first time this season. But Paul Corry is still not quite ready and former Rovers man Chris Mulhall is doubtful with a dead leg.

In other Premier Division action this evening, Galway United host third-placed Dundalk at Terryland Park (7.45pm) and Drogheda United are at home to Sligo Rovers (7.45pm).

In the First Division, meanwhile, Cork City Foras Co-op, having registered their first victory of the season last Friday night, will be looking to make it back-to-back wins in their afternoon kick-off game against Limerick at Jackman Park (4.30pm).

Manager Tommy Dunne was delighted with his team’s 4-2 win over Mervue, their first of the season, a game in which a Shane Duggan hat-trick grabbed the headlines.

“I was very happy with our attacking play against Mervue,” says Dunne. “We created several chances, so that aspect of our play was very pleasing. However, we need to be more diligent on the defensive side of things, and that is something we will be working on.”

Gearóid Morrissey is expected to miss the game with a back problem while Dave Warren will definitely be out with a thigh injury. Cathal Lordan, also struggling with a thigh injury, is a doubt for today’s game.

With Limerick third in the table and looking to win three games on the bounce, Dunne reckons his side are in for a stiff test.

“It will be a difficult game,” he says. “It’s another Munster derby, and they have had a good start to the season. Jackman Park is always a tough place to get a result.”

Elsewhere, Monaghan United face Athlone Town at Gortakeegan and Shelbourne welcome Finn Harps to Tolka Park (both 8pm).

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