AFTER quite a few wobbles in the first half of the season, Bohemians last week began the long run-in in ominously good form, with a 3-0 win over Dundalk which hauled them up to second in a congested table, two points behind St Patrick’s Athletic, level with Shamrock Rovers and just one point ahead of tonight’s visitors to Dalymount Park, Sporting Fingal.
The defending champions have several injury worries ahead of the clash – Anto Murphy and Stephen Gray remain sidelined with Achilles injuries while Jason Byrne, Killian Brennan and Jason McGuinness are all struggling – but manager Pat Fenlon says he was “delighted” with the win over Dundalk and is confident that his players can “kick on” from here.
“Fingal are a decent team,” he says. “They are up in the table on their merits and we know it’s going to be tough.”
Apart from Bohemians, the only other side to inflict defeat on Liam Buckley’s side in the campaign to date are UCD, who took the points last Friday with a last-minute winner.
“To be within a point of Bohs at this point of the season is encouraging,” says Buckley. “Unquestionably, they are the team to catch this season. They may have dropped more points than normal so far but, with the depth of their squad, I expect them now to make a serious charge for a three-in-a-row of titles.’’
Buckley can welcome Stephen Paisley back to the squad, after the centre-back returned to action from a seven-week lay-off for Monday’s Leinster Senior Cup defeat at Shelbourne.
But, while fellow defenders Shaun Maher and John Frost miss out through suspension, Gary O’Neill is back in full training following a groin injury and could make an earlier-than-expected comeback should he pass a pre-match fitness test.
League leaders Pats are at home to cash-strapped Galway United. The Tribesmen’s players have agreed to defer wages for one week on the back of a cash crisis caused by falling attendances but Airtricity League director Fran Gavin yesterday praised the club for acting decisively.
“What Galway are doing now is appealing to the people of Galway to come down and support them,” he says.
“It’s good to see them doing it, not denying it or ignoring it, which has happened in the past. They are being proactive about it and I’m sure the problem will be sorted fairly quickly.’’
In tonight’s other Premier Division games, Sligo Rovers host Shamrock Rovers at the Showgrounds and Drogheda United welcome UCD to Hunky Dory’s Park. All games kick off at 7.45pm.
Meanwhile, in the First Division, Cork City – who play Longford away tomorrow – have announced that Gareth Cambridge is returning to the club. The 22 -year-old forward played for Cork under Alan Mathews and Paul Doolin, but spent the first half of this season at Waterford United.
Said City boss Tommy Dunne: “Gareth is a good player and impressed me when he was with the club but the turmoil at that point meant that he moved to Waterford at the beginning of the season. He will add to our options in attack and I’m pleased that he has signed.”
Tonight’s First Division schedule: Limerick v Waterford United, Jackman Park, 7.45; Mervue United v Derry City, Terryland Park, 7.45; Monaghan United v Salthill Devon, Gortakeegan, 8pm; Shelbourne v Athlone Town, Tolka Park, 8pm and Wexford Youths v Finn Harps, Ferrycarrig Park, 8pm.
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