Wexford Youths on the brink of claiming Airtricity League title for the first time

The SSE Airtricity League First Division takes top billing tonight, with Wexford Youths on the brink of claiming the title for the first time and, with it, promotion to the Premier Division.

A win against Athlone Town at Ferrycarrig Park this evening will secure the historic prize for Wexford, leaving second-placed Finn Harps – who are at home to UCD – unable to close the gap with two games remaining after tonight. A big crowd is expected in the south east, where kick-off is at 8pm.

In the Premier Division, meanwhile, the RTÉ 2 cameras will be at Turner’s Cross for live coverage of Cork City v Derry City, with an earlier kick off time of 7.25pm.

Derry caretaker boss Paul Hegarty, who replaced Peter Hutton, got his managerial reign off to the perfect start with a 1-0 win at home to Shamrock Rovers, a result which will have been a huge boost in confidence to a side who were beaten 3-0 in an FAI Cup replay the last time they visited Cork.

For City boss John Caulfield, the plus going into the game is that batteries have been recharged ahead of tonight’s encounter.

“The break was good for us because a lot of guys had played a lot of matches,” he says. “We had nine games in five and a half weeks, which was a lot. Five or six players needed a few days off and that’s what we have done. On the other hand, it has given the likes of Johnny Dunleavy, Gavan Holohan, Steven Beattie and Stephen Folan a chance to do some extra training, because they had obviously missed out for a little while.

“Training this week has been very good, it has been very competitive. It’s amazing how, when you get your squad back to nearly full strength, competition for places heats up - and that’s what you need.” For City, Steven Beattie and Stephen Folan are available once again, having been cup-tied for the last two meetings between the sides, but John Kavanagh and Colin Healy are both still ruled out through injury.

Tonight’s other Premier Division games see Drogheda United at home to Bohemians at United Park (7.45pm) and Shamrock Rovers at home to Galway United in Tallaght (8pm), with the latter’s manager Tommy Dunne stressing that his players will need to bounce back from the blow of losing the EA Sports Cup Final to St Patrick’s Athletic in a penalty shoot-out.

“Last weekend was disappointing but, as has been said, staying in the Premier Division is the priority for everyone,” says Dunne. We’ve got six cup finals coming up. The whole bottom half of the table is separated by just two wins at the moment, so we’ll be looking for a big push from the lads.”

Back in the First Division, while many eyes will be on the events unfolding at Ferrycarrig Park, there are also games tonight between Cabinteely and Cobh Ramblers (Stradbrook, 7.45), Shelbourne and Waterford United (Tolka Park, 7. 45) and Finn Harps and UCD (Finn Park, 8pm).


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