Battered by Hurricane Derry last time out, Cork City travel to Dalymount Park tonight still in search of a first victory under Neale Fenn.
More significantly, a win against Bohemians, if it’s coupled with defeat for Finn Harps in their basement game at home to UCD, would guarantee the Rebels Premier Division football next season.
All big ‘ifs’, of course, especially for a struggling City side who, in five games under the new manager, have shipped 11 goals, scored three and picked up just a single point, with their most recent setback that 4-0 loss at the Brandywell in what was their game in hand over Harps.
Now, with only four fixtures remaining in the campaign, City are seven points clear of the Donegal side and, as things stand, not yet free of the danger of finishing second from bottom and ending up in a promotion-relegation play-off.
So, for all interested observers, the inter-linked proceedings in Finn Park and Dalymount Park will be closely watched. And while Neale Fenn’s focus is on trying to pick up points against his former club — something which, bucking the overall downward trend of their campaign, City have succeeded in doing so far this season — he is acutely aware of the consequences if they don’t.
“It’s a massive game for us,” he says. “We’re not worried about what Bohs do, we’re worried about the fact that if Finn Harps beat UCD and we lose to Bohs then Finn Harps are four points behind us which is not the position we want to be in. So we’ve got to go up there and try and beat Bohs and hope that the other results go our way.
“We’ve got a good record against them this season, but that doesn’t really mean anything going into tonight.
“It’s going to be a tight game and we need to make sure we defend set-pieces and defend our box better than we did last Friday against Derry.”
Keith Long’s side currently occupy fourth place in the Premier Division and, in battling for a European place with Derry City and St Patrick’s Athletic, will also be looking to bounce back from the disappointment of losing to Shamrock Rovers in their FAI Cup semi-final last week. Tonight’s match in Dalymount Park will be televised live on RTÉ 2.
Elsewhere in the Premier Division this evening, champions Dundalk welcome third-placed Derry to Oriel Park and fifth-placed Pat’s host Waterford at Richmond Park.
Meanwhile, history will be made at Stradbrook as Cabinteely compete in the First Division play-offs for the first time. Longford Town are the visitors, having finished the season in third, one place above the south Dublin club.
“It’s been a great season,” says Cabo director of football Pat Devlin. “The lads have been fantastic. We have played Longford three times this season and beaten them twice. But we wouldn’t underestimate them, there’s not a lot between us, So it should be a very good game. And an interesting two legs.”
The winners of this first play-off will then have to face First Division runners-up Drogheda United for the right to contest the promotion-relegation decider against the club which finishes ninth in the Premier Division. All of the play-off games will be two-legged affairs.