It’s the penultimate night of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division season and the finely-poised relegation battle is once again centre stage, with the bottom three of Limerick, Drogheda United and Sligo Rovers all desperately in need of points to fend off the imminent threat of the drop.
After promising so much with a remarkable late run of form, Limerick came a-cropper at home to Derry City last Saturday, a 0-2 defeat leaving them still propping up the table with two games left, on 26 points, two behind Drogheda and Sligo — and four behind Galway United who play Bray Wanderers tomorrow — as they prepare for the visit of Shamrock Rovers to the Market’s Field this evening.
The RTÉ2 cameras will be on hand to broadcast live coverage of Limerick’s bid to resuscitate their great escape against a Rovers side still hoping that results in the campaign’s last two games will see them pip Cork City as runners-up to champions Dundalk.
Drogheda United and Sligo Rovers are both on 28 points but, by virtue of an inferior goal difference, it’s the Boynesiders who occupy the play-off spot in the drop zone as they host Longford Town at United Park this evening.
“It’s a must-win game for us,” says Drogs manager Mark Kinsella.
“People have written us off all season and I’m not sure many would have thought that we can still even avoid the play-offs with two games to go but we need to focus on ourselves first and let the other results take care of themselves.”
Sligo boss Micky Adams is on precisely the same page, as his team travel to Inchicore to take on a St Pat’s side who know that Bohemians still harbour ambitions of beating their Dublin rivals to a fourth-place finish.
“We won’t be looking at other results,” says Adams. “You can’t get too caught up in the ifs, buts and maybes. We just need to concentrate on ourselves and what is a very, very good team that we are up against tomorrow.
“Results have not gone our way lately but there is nothing more we could have done besides take our chances. That’s the big thing we need to do.”
Up nearer the top of the table, Cork City can guarantee themselves second place for the second year running should they overcome Dundalk at Turner’s Cross, in what will also be a dress rehearsal for next month’s FAI Cup final.
However, an injury crisis means the Cork cast is likely to be very different to the one which manager John Caulfield will hope to put out at the Aviva, with a number of the club’s U19 players coming into the squad for tonight’s game against the champions.
The latest measure of the Lilywhites’ dominance this season is that three of the four nominees for the PFAI Player Of The Year award, announced yesterday, hail from Oriel Park – Daryl Horgan, Stephen O’Donnell and Richie Towell – with the fourth spot taken by Cork striker Mark O’ Sullivan.
Tonight’s remaining Premier League game sees Derry City hosting Bohemians at the Brandywell while, in the First Division, UCD have home advantage against Finn Harps in the first leg of their promotion play-off.
All tonight’s games kick off at 7.45pm.
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