HAVING hit Galway United for six in the cup, Shamrock Rovers should now fancy their chances of making it a six-point lead at the top of the Airtricity Premier Division when they again host the Tribesmen at Tallaght Stadium tonight (8pm).
However, manager Michael O’Neill is wary of a Galwegian backlash as his side seek to exploit Bohemians’ slip-up against Sligo in what has become a two-horse title race between the big Dublin rivals.
“I was delighted with how things went in last week’s game; it was a great reaction from the lads,” he said, referring to Rovers’ resurgent goal-spree in the cup after Dundalk had put five past the Hoops in the league. “But because of that, Galway will be hurting coming back here, and they will be out to do their utmost to cause an upset.
“No two games are the same, and while the players did very well last week, we have to take this match on its own merits. Every game between now and the end of the season will be huge for us.”
Centre-half Dan Murray remains out of action with a knee injury, while Sean O’Connor has also been ruled out as he too picked up a knee injury, after just three minutes on the pitch in last week’s cup game. Paddy Kavanagh and Billy Dennehy are unavailable due to suspensions.
On the upside, O’Neill is delighted with Dessie Baker’s timely return to action.
“It was good to have Dessie back (against Galway), as we’ve not had much of him this year because of injury,” he points out. “Dessie can be a very important player for us between now and the end of th When he came on last week that his quality was obvious. It’s good to have him back for the run-in.”
Galway head for the capital without the suspended Barry Ryan, who was sent off in the cup game against Rovers with the result that his replacement in that match, local youngster Dara Geraghty, will once again wear the ‘keeper’s jersey.
Elsewhere in the Premier Division tonight, it’s Bray Wanderers v UCD at the Carlisle Grounds, Drogheda United v Sporting Fingal at Hunky Dorys Park and St Patrick’s Athletic v Dundalk at Richmond Park, all three games kicking off at 7.45pm.
In the First Division meanwhile, Cork City will continue pushing for a play-off place when they host Longford Town at Turner’s Cross (kick off 7.45pm), boosted by a fine 1-3 away win against Limerick.
City are five points behind Waterford United who occupy the second play-off position and manager Tommy Dunne believes his side still have a chance of catching their Munster rivals whose turn it is tonight to host Limerick.
“Limerick were well up for the game last weekend but our first-half performance was very good,” says the City boss. “I thought we were comfortable against them at the back and we looked like we might score every time we attacked, so that was the really pleasing aspect. We had a great chance to make it four just after half-time, which would have made things more comfortable, so it’s important that we become more ruthless when we’re finishing off teams.
“Our recent form has been good and if we are to have any aspirations of putting pressure on the teams ahead of us, then we need to continue on with that until the end of the season. The teams ahead of us in the table still have to play each other and will therefore drop points, so that is something we can capitalise on if we keep winning games.”
Dunne has only minor injuries concerns ahead of tonight’s game with both Greg O’Halloran (ankle) and Davin O’Neill (groin) expected to be fit. Neal Horgan, however, will miss out because of his commitments with St Finbarr’s GAA Club in the coming weeks.
“We need to win the game, simple as that,” says Dunne. “We need to be beating Longford Town, no disrespect to them, at home if we have any aspirations of getting into that play-off spot and we pretty much need to win every game between now and the end of the season as well.”
In tonight’s other First Division games, it’s Derry City v Mervue United, The Brandywell, 7.45pm; Waterford United v Limerick, RSC, 7.45pm; and Finn Harps v Wexford Youths, Finn Park, 8pm.
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