It will be one small step for the Cork City players to cross the white line at Dalymount Park tonight, but one giant leap for the club if they can beat Bohemians.
City require just two points from their final four games to clinch the 2017 League of Ireland title and, such is their commanding position at the top of the table, they could even do it in defeat tonight should Dundalk execute a giant stumble at home to Bray Wanderers.
Anything less than victory for the Lilywhites at Oriel Park and the glittering prize will be southbound, not that City want to be relying on favours elsewhere.
“We are down to a situation now where everything is in our own hands,” said manager John Caulfield.
“It will be a difficult game, but we will have another massive following up there and I hope that, after our last two performances, we are back to the intensity we have had for most of the season.
"Nothing comes easy, but we are in the driving seat.
"The most important thing for us, after going through a shaky spell, was to get back to what we are good at and the last couple of performances have shown that.
"We are happy that we are back to that and hopefully it’s good for the run-in. We have got back to the cup final, which is phenomenal, but the league is the one we want.”
Bohemians, though, have proved something of a bogey team for Cork in recent years, not least this season, when they became the first side to beat them in the league, bringing City’s incredible run to an end with a 1-0 victory at Turner’s Cross in July. Bohs boss Keith Long, who side are sitting in mid-table, is relishing the occasion.
“There’s a lot of expectation on Cork City, but we’ve shown we can beat them this season. We will have to be at our very best again, but we’ve nothing to fear.
“Cork have their job to do, we have ours. Our players have pride in the jersey, pride in playing for Bohs, and will want to win. We want to finish as high up the table as we can. We can afford to look up the table now, not down it.”
The home side must plan without Lorcan Fitzgerald (knee), Warren O’Hora (hamstring) and the suspended Keith Ward, but Paddy Kavanagh returns from suspension. Steven Beattie is suspended for Cork while Conor McCormack will have a knock he picked up in training assessed ahead of kick-off.
While Dundalk will be aiming for the victory over Bray that could be enough to see them remain the reigning champions, at least until Monday night — when Cork host Derry City at Turner’s Cross — this evening’s other key games in the Premier Division are all about the tense battle to avoid the remaining two relegation spots and joining Drogheda United in the First Division next season.
Galway United, currently in the drop zone, have a huge home game against St Patrick’s Athletic, who are just one point above them, while second from bottom Finn Harps have it all to do as they travel to Maginn Park to face Derry City.
Sligo Rovers, on the same number of points as Pat’s, are similarly engaged in a salvage operation, as they travel to Dublin to take on a Shamrock Rovers side smarting from the FAI Cup semi-final exit at the hands of Dundalk (kick off in Tallaght is at 8pm; all other games kick off at 7.45pm).
A boost for Brandon Miele has come in the form of the SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers of Ireland Player of the Month award for September, but the first-time winner admits the accolade arrived at the end of a bad week for Shamrock Rovers.
“It was horrible for us on Tuesday,” he says. “It was a tight, good game, but it was a bad way for us to go out of the cup.”
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