LOI : Saints And Dundalk Ready For Title Decider

loiA season defining weekend lies in store for the League Of Ireland with two key games that could determine the destination of the title and who is bound for the dreaded drop.

All eyes turn to Richmond Park this Friday as St Patrick’s Athletic host Dundalk in what is the biggest game either side has faced in a long time. Only goal difference separates these two title rivals who enjoyed mixed fortunes in last week’s FAI Cup games with  Pats bowing out to Shamrock Rovers while Dundalk walloped Shelbourne. The momentum appears to be with the lilywhites but few would bet against Liam Buckley’s side at home.

Elsewhere , the big Dublin derby between Shelbourne and Bohemians will go a long way to determining who is bound for the relegation trapdoor while Shamrock Rovers and Drogheda United take a break from league matters to contest the EA Sports Cup final.

Derry City –v- Bray Wanderers    7:45

Fourth placed Derry City take on second bottom Bray Wanderers at the Brandywell.

Having not played since the 1-0 defeat at the hands of St Patrick’s Athletic on September 3rd Derry City will look to get back on track here with a win. Though out of the running for the league Derry still have a chance of overtaking Sligo Rovers and landing a place in the Europa League next season in the process.

A Jason Byrne goal was enough to give Bray Wanderers a 1-1 draw with relegation rivals UCD last week. The Wicklow side are far from out of danger and will need a big improvement in performance if they are to stand any chance of surviving to play in the top division next season. Pat Devlin and his team must know they cannot lose here.

Prediction: Home win

St Patrick’s Athletic –v- Dundalk    7:45

The most crucial game of the season takes place at Richmond Park as St Patrick’s Athletic take on Dundalk.

St Patrick’s Athletic will be extremely disappointed by the fact that they could not register anything other than a 0-0 draw with Limerick last time out. The Dublin side are top of the league on goal difference and know that this game is an absolutely must win if they are to have any chance of winning their first league title since 1999. Lose and it could be all over.

A late Stephen O’Donnell goal gave Dundalk the crucial three points to take them joint top, second on goal difference, last time out. Manager Stephen Kenny will feel the momentum is with his side, but will be intelligent enough to know to not become arrogant about it. His players have had a huge turnaround this season, only time will tell if it will be a turnaround that will land them the league title. The picture will become much clearer come 9.30 on Friday night in Inchicore.

Prediction: Home win

UCD –v- Sligo Rovers    7:45 

UCD welcome reigning champions Sligo Rovers at the UCD Bowl.

The Dublin side will feel confident that they have done enough to put some distance between themselves and the bottom of the table to ensure they have the best chance of surviving for another season. They may find it difficult to get a positive result here but manager Martin Russell and his side are capable of causing upsets especially when they have the home field advantage.

Despite being out of the running for the League title Sligo Rovers will be determined to ensure they attain a place in Europe next season. The 2-0 away win against Bohemians went a long way to achieving that and a win here could perhaps cement it. Despite the difficulties Sligo faced this season Ian Baraclough will feel confident that his side can mount a real challenge for the league next year.

Prediction: Away win

Shelbourne –v- Bohemian FC    8:00

A relegation dogfight here as bottom side Shelbourne take on 10th placed Bohemian FC at Tolka Park.

Having not played since the 2-1 defeat against Dublin rivals Shamrock Rovers, Shelbourne will be happy to be back playing and working on getting themselves off the bottom of the table. They will head into this relegation six pointer determined to win, having no intention of dropping back into the first division.

Like their opponents Bohemians are also coming into this game on the back of a defeat and having played a game more than their opponents, know this is a must not lose game if there ever was one. Despite the loss in their last fixture, their form has been improving under caretaker manager Owen Heary. One way or another whether Bohs stay up or go down will more than likely be decided here.

Prediction: Home win

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