There was more good news for champions and league leaders Dundalk ahead of tonight’s game against Derry City at Oriel Park, with midfielder Richie Towell being named the SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Player of the Month for April.
It is the third time that Towell has won the monthly award and comes as due reward for the seven goals in five games which the 23 year old midfielder contributed as the Lilywhites maintained their still unbeaten defence of the title.
Ominously for tonight’s opponents Derry – and every other team in the league – Towell believes that Stephen Kenny’s panel this season is even stronger than the one which brought the big prize home to Dundalk last year.
“We’ve a bigger and better squad than last year, definitely,” said Towell. “The competition for places this year is phenomenal. When you look at the lads like Stephen O’Donnell - he’s our captain and he hasn’t been getting into the side!”
Back to full fitness, O’Donnell will be pressing for a place against Derry tonight, as will John Mountney, while Paddy Barrett is in line for his first league start for the club. However, Dundalk will be without Brian Gartland who is set to miss out for a few weeks with a hamstring injury.
The Candystripes will be without goalkeeper Gerard Doherty, who has a back injury, as well as Patrick McEleney and Stephen Dooley but, after a poor run of results, manager Peter Hutton is hoping for a positive response from his team. “No one will give us a chance if you look at their last game and our last game,” he said. “All the critics will be out waiting to pounce again but that’s part and parcel of the challenge and if I was a player and I was in this position I couldn’t wait - I’d be chomping at the bit to get at Dundalk.”
Second-placed Cork City, who don’t play against Limerick until tomorrow, have cut the gap at the top to four points but by virtue of playing one game more than the leaders who are sure to fancy their chances of restoring a seven-point advantage at home tonight.
The scoreless game played out by St Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers did a favour only for Dundalk, the Hoops’ sixth draw of the campaign explaining why, despite being the top-flight’s only other unbeaten side, they are still eight points off the pace going into this evening’s game against Longford Town in Tallaght.
In tonight’s other Premier Division game, Bohemians – who, like Rovers, are on 24 points - are away to a Galway side which, under manager Tommy Dunne, is now showing signs of coming to grips with their top-flight status.
Tonight’s full schedule:
Premier Division - Dundalk v Derry City, Oriel Park, 7.45; Galway United v Bohemians, Eamonn Deacy Park, 7.45; and Shamrock Rovers v Longford Town, Tallaght Stadium, 8:00. First Division: Athlone Town v Shelbourne, Athlone Town Stadium, 7.45; UCD v Wexford Youths, The UCD Bowl, 7.45; and Waterford United v Cabinteely, RSC, 7.45.
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