Free-scoring Sligo seek capital gain

IT’S been a good week for league leaders Sligo Rovers.

They followed up their 7-1 trouncing of Galway United on Saturday night with a 5-0 win over Dundalk on Tuesday. Main title rivals Shamrock Rovers then failed to beat 10-man Bohemians the following night.

With no suspension or injury concerns, Sligo travel to St. Patrick’s Athletic this evening two points clear (though with a game more played) and off the back of six straight wins.

“The matches have flown by and it’s amazing that there are only three games left,” said Sligo boss Paul Cook as he reflected on an already record-breaking season for the club as they chase the title they last won in 1977.

“We’re delighted to achieve a record points total and number of wins in the season. Our goal every season is to do better than the previous year and we’ve achieved that.”

The pressure remains on champions Shamrock Rovers, who may need to win their four remaining games — including a tricky back match at home to Derry City on Thursday — if they are to retain the title.

But Sligo will need a bounty of capital gain as, after Inchicore tonight, they come back to Dublin next to face Bohemians before finishing with a home game against UCD. For now, it’s all about putting five points between themselves and “Shams” ahead of their game at Bray Wanderers tomorrow.

“It is a wonderful position to be in for the club and we’re going to do our best to try to get as many points on the board,” added Cook.

“Obviously it would be preferable to have it in our hands and the only way we can do that is focus on our own games. There are more twists to come in the title race.”

St. Patrick’s have injury concerns while one eye is already on next week when they face Bohemians in the Leinster Senior Cup final before travelling to Shelbourne for an FAI Ford Cup semi-final.

Winger Sean O’Connor (hamstring) is out while midfielder Shane McFaul is a doubt due to a virus.

Topscorer Danny North and midfielder Dave Mulcahy face fitness tests following hamstring strains while Daryl Kavanagh, who has tendonitis in a knee, is also a doubt. Stephen Bradley returns following illness.

Shamrock Rovers have a doubt over central defender Craig Sives for their trip to the Carlisle Grounds tomorrow.

“The game against Bohemians on Wednesday night left us knowing exactly what we need to do now,” said Rovers’ manager Michael O’Neill. “Winning the four games will require us to take each game at a time and on its own merits, starting with Bray.”

Defender Adam Mitchell and winger Jake Kelly are suspended for Bray.

Third-placed Derry City travel to Dundalk without defender Eddie McCallion (calf) and winger Owen Morrision (calf) while Ryan McBride is a doubt with a groin strain.

Dundalk, who’ve lost their last four league games, have striker Jason Byrne back from suspension but are missing seven players. Midfielders Dean Bennett and Greg Bolger are banned, Carl McHugh is away with the Republic of Ireland U19s, while Eoghan Osborne, Stephen Maher, Mark Griffin and Colin Hawkins are injured. Striker Aidan Downes, harshly sent off at Tallaght Stadium on Wednesday, is suspended for Bohemians’ hosting of UCD while midfielders Mark Rossiter and Keith Buckley are injured.

In-form UCD, who’ve won their last three games including a victory over Bohs, remain without trio Sean Harding, Sean Russell and Cillian Morrison. Chris Lyons is in Bulgaria on U19s duty.

“My players will be trying to earn themselves a contract for next season and prove that they can hack it in the top flight, so we won’t be taking this game lightly,” says Drogheda United boss Mick Cooke ahead of their visit to bottom side Galway United.

Keeper Robert Duggan is fit again and Mark O’Brien returns from suspension, though fellow midfielder Brian Gannon is back from a ban.

Galway are down to the bare bones. Johnny Keane, Victor Collins, Laurence Gaughan and Eric Holland are injured while Ronan Caldwell is suspended and Yob Son needs a fitness check on a dead leg.

In the First Division, second-placed Cork City travel to bottom side Salthill Devon this evening while leaders Shelbourne head to Waterford United.

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