The first stage in the promotion/relegation play-offs starts tonight when Galway United host Bray Wanderers at Terryland Park while, at the same time, Waterford United take on Monaghan United at the RSC. The winners in Galway will secure their Premier status while the losers will go on to play the winners of the Suirside game in a two-legged affair to determine the final ups and downs of the league season.
On Friday, Galway wisely rested 10 of the team which had beaten Bohemians the previous week yet still managed a 3-3 draw with already relegated Drogheda, making it six goals scored for the Tribesmen in their last two games.
Manager Sean Connor will be expecting one final big push from this team but admits that he’s not a fan of the play-off situations and questions the reasoning behind putting his side in the situation in the first place as .
“What I find frustrating is that we end up 11 points ahead of Bray and still have to play them in a play-off,” he says. “Over 36 games when you’re 11 points ahead of a side, you should be able to stay in the division instead of a shot-gun game where anything can happen. But that win against Bohemians shows that on our day we can play against the best teams.”
For their part, Bray Wanderers are entitled to think the same thing having almost spoiled Shamrock Rovers’ title party at the Carlisle Grounds on Friday night.
Says Bray’s Director of Football Pat Devlin: “That was a game we should have won but now we have to move on and go into probably our most important game of the season and hope for a solid performance. But we know it will be tough as they are a well organised, well-managed and well-coached side and, of course, they have everything to play for like ourselves.”
Ditto the scenario at the RSC, where, thanks to their second-place finish, Waterford United have home advantage over Monaghan United in the First Division play-off.
The Blues’ fourth win on the spin, a 1-2 win away to Shelbourne on Friday, left manager Stephen Henderson singing the praises of both his players and the supporters.
“We were a bit ropey in the first half, but we came out for the second half with a positive attitude and we took the game to Shelbourne,” he says. “This was the second game in a row that we came from behind to win and that shows the character we have in this squad at the moment. And the people who travelled to support us were fantastic. They got behind us from the opening whistle and we want to reward them by beating Monaghan.”
Having lost narrowly to First Division champions Derry on the same night, Monaghan will take heart from what was an encouraging performance by them and also the fact they have a 100 per cent record against Waterford going into tonight’s game. Manager Mick Cooke will welcome the return from suspension of Sean Brennan, although Karl Bermingham remains sidelined with an injury.
Finally tonight, A Championship winners Cobh Ramblers will look to make the most of home advantage at St Colman’s Park in the first leg of their relegation/promotion play-off game against bottom club Salthill Devon. The second leg of the tie takes place next Saturday at Drom. All tonight’s game have a 7.45pm kick off.