It’s an early season title fight, a battle of the champions, as the Premier Division kingpins host the First Division winners but, with Limerick having walloped Sligo Rovers 5-1 on their return to the top flight – before their match against Derry City in Buncrana was abruptly cut short by a floodlight failure with the score at 1-1 – Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny knows his side will need to maintain the high standards which have brought them two wins out of two, as they continue their hunt for a record-equalling four titles on the trot.
“Limerick had an exceptional win on the opening night,” he says. “But we are at home and we want to capitalise on our home form this season. We want to bring our good form from the first two games into tonight to get the victory.”
And new striker Thomas Stewart, who got his Lilywhites career off to a scoring start in a 4-0 defeat of Sligo, observes: “Teams want to knock you off your perch when you’ve won three-in-a-row. We need to be wary of the other teams. Limerick are a good side, but we will be ready.”
Limerick boss Martin Russell certainly doesn’t underestimate the challenge facing his team at Oriel tonight.
“Dundalk have started where they left off last season, they’re the team to beat,” he says. “It is probably the biggest challenge in domestic football but it’s one we’re looking forward to.”
Goalkeeper Gary Rogers is back in contention for the home side after recovering from a calf injury while Stephen O’Donnell (thigh) and Dane Massey (calf) also return to the squad having missed the game in Sligo.
Fresh from his side’s Dublin derby win over Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley is hoping for another crackling atmosphere in Tallaght for the visit of Derry City (8pm).
“I think the crowd was unbelievable last week,” he says. “I haven’t seen Tallaght like that since the days of Michael (O’Neill) when we won the league here. For our players to see that and experience that and win a big game like that will only help us. But now we need to go and win tonight’s game. It’s no use to us beating Bohs and then not showing up against Derry.
“We need to go and put in a performance and go and win the game, because if we do, the fans will come back, and if we make this place a fortress, people won’t want to come here and play.”
After just two rounds of games in the 2017 season, Dundalk are one of four teams who have a 100% record, along with Cork City, Bray Wanderers and Drogheda United. Surprise packages Drogheda are at home to Cork tonight (8pm) while Bray Wanderers host a Bohemians side which has yet to get off the mark.
Finn Harps welcome Galway United to Finn Park (8pm), with both clubs still in search of their first points, while the same applies to Sligo Rovers and St. Patrick’s Athletic who meet at the Showgrounds. In the First Division, it’s Athlone Town v Longford Town, Cabinteely v Wexford and UCD v Waterford. Games kick off at 7.45 unless otherwise indicated.
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