Sligo ready for final title push

With a first title in 35 years glimmering like a beacon before them, Sligo Rovers boss Ian Baraclough is unperturbed his players are feeling a little nervous tension ahead of this afternoon’s potential title decider with St. Patrick’s Athletic.

He’d be worried if they weren’t.

With three games to play, Sligo need just two points, and victory over their nearest rivals would be the perfect way to clinch it before an expected crowd of over 5,000 at the Showgrounds.

“There would be something wrong with the players if they were not feeling it at this stage of the season,” said Baraclough of the pressure his team are under to deliver to an eager Sligo public.

“There is hope and a weight of expectation and I think we’ve dealt with that very well. We’ve kept five clean sheets in the last seven games. We’ve been unbeaten all season at home, we’ve been top of the league for six months so it’s been talked about for two or three months now.

“A win (today) would be the icing on the cake. It has been a tremendous effort by the players and everyone at the club. Our objective at the start of the season was the top three, to qualify for Europe and then progress further.

“We’ve surpassed that and you want to make it that glorious ending now. We have that chance because of the good work done all year and I hope we finish it off now.”

Up against Sligo’s unbeaten home record is the fact that St. Pat’s are undefeated on their travels, so it promises to be very tight. Alan Keane, Iarfhlaith Davoren and Danny North are out injured for the remainder of the season for Sligo while Baraclough may be forced into a change at right-back as Seamus Conneely is struggling with a hamstring injury sustained in Cork last week.

FAI Cup finalists St. Pat’s are without Ryan Coombes, who’s away with the Republic of Ireland U19s, while winger Jake Kelly (ankle) needs to prove his fitness.

Meanwhile, a team of Maltese officials will take charge of the game between UCD and Drogheda United at the UCD Bowl as part of an inter-league referee exchange between the FAI and the Malta FA.

Defender Sean Russell (groin) joins keeper John Kelly (groin) and strikers Cillian Morrison (ankle) and Graham Rusk (shin) on the sidelines for UCD.

Third-placed Drogheda have central defender Alan McNally back from a ban, but are without suspended Brennan brothers Ryan and Gavin, along with fellow midfielder Eric Foley.

Cork City have midfielder Gearoid Morrissey back from suspension for their trip to Shelbourne. Garry Buckley (ankle) and Brian Lenihan (back) are out injured while striker Keigan Parker has left the club to return to Scotland for personal reasons.

Gareth Matthews is suspended for a Shelbourne side badly in need of a lift after their morale-shattering cup semi-final defeat in midweek. Defender Ian Ryan (hip) and influential winger Paddy Kavanagh (knee) are out.

Central defender Colin Hawkins and winger Gary McCabe are suspended for Shamrock Rovers who go for a third successive win when they entertain cup finalists Derry City at Tallaght Stadium. Rovers boss Brian Laws waits on Conor McCormack and Killian Brennan, both of whom have calf injuries. Barry Molloy is a doubt for Derry due to a hip flexor problem.

Striker Mark Griffin remains suspended for Dundalk who host Bohemians at Oriel Park. Defender Paul Whelan and midfielder Stephen Maher, cup-tied for their semi-final defeat to St. Pat’s, return.

Bohemians are without suspended central defender Kevin Feely and midfielder Adam Martin (ankle).

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