There will be plenty on the line for both sides but for contrasting reasons when Cork City host Shamrock Rovers in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division at Turner’s Cross tomorrow night.
Always an appetising fixture, this latest instalment comes with the added significance of the in-form Hoops arriving on Leeside as table-toppers and inconsistent City looking to get their league challenge back on track after last week’s 1-0 defeat to Dundalk in Oriel Park.
For City boss John Caulfield, the goal is to see his side put that disappointing setback behind them reproduce something more like the command performance they put on in beating Bohemians at the Cross in their last home outing in the league.
“Rovers have started the season on fire and built up a lead at the top of the table already, although they have played a couple of games more than everyone else,” said Caulfield. “For the last couple of years, Stephen (Bradley) has been building for a title challenge and this seems like the year it could happen with the way they have started.
“We need a huge passionate crowd and a high-energy performance. We gave it in the last home game against Bohemians and we’ll need to do the same again to get a result. Obviously, some of the results haven’t gone as well as we would have liked, but here’s an opportunity for us to bounce back.
In the last couple of years coming down here, and particularly last year, Rovers played cagey and got a draw. This year, they are high-flying and scoring lots of goals and you’d imagine they see this as an opportunity to put more distance between us and them. We know that we will need to be at our best.
On the injury front for City, Alan Bennett, Seán McLoughlin, and Dan Casey will all be assessed closer to kick-off but Colm Horgan is definitely out having picked up an injury at Oriel Park, while Daire O’Connor remains sidelined.
Rovers, making the most of their two games in hand, arrive in Cork in a rich vein of league form. Although knocked out of the EA Sports Cup by Bray Wanderers on Monday – while City were beating Cobh Ramblers 4-1 in the same competition - Bradley’s side are on a five-game winning streak in the Premier Division since drawing 0-0 with Dundalk at the beginning of March, in the process scoring 11 goals and conceding just three.
And, though respectful of City, the Hoops manager is confident that his side can maintain their lead at the top with victory at Turner’s Cross.
"It’s a game that we are really looking forward to and it’s a game that we are ready for,” he said.
We know it will be a really tough game against a team full of top players but I believe we are ready to go and get three more points on the board.
On player availability, Bradley reported: “Roberto Lopes could have played on in Bray but he’s made the right decision, he felt a little sore and he came off early. There was nothing major on the night except Sam Bone (hamstring) who will be out for four weeks. The rest were just knocks. We’ll have to have a look at Trevor Clarke this morning but he should be fine. We need to look at Ethan Boyle and Dan Carr as well.”
Having found their groove after a halting start to the season, Dundalk will be hoping to avail of any Rovers slip-up in Cork to close the gap on the leaders when the champions travel to Inchicore to take on a struggling St Patrick’s Athletic side who have lost their last three games in the league.
Elsewhere in the Premier Division, third-placed Bohemians head north to take on Sligo Rovers, UCD are at home to Waterford and bottom club Finn Harps host neighbours Derry City.
Meanwhile in the First Division, it’s Athlone Town v Drogheda United, Galway United v Limerick, Shelbourne v Bray Wanderers and Wexford v Longford Town.
All tomorrow's SSE Airtricity League games kick off at 7.45pm.