LOI preview - Dublin Derby takes headline slot in SSE Airtricity Men's Premier Division

3rd May 2024

RTÉ Sport previews tonight's top flight action

Ireland's biggest derby game rolls around again tonight with the beginning of another double weekend of games that will quickly impact the table.

Despite their injury problems which have seen up to 10 players out, Shamrock Rovers are on a five-game unbeaten run.

It seems as if the Hoops are only in second or third gear as they aim to peak for European football and the league run-in.

The home draw with Galway was a slip-up on paper but given the Tribesmen are taking points off most teams in the top half of the table, it can quickly be forgotten.

Johnny Kenny and Aaron Greene are stepping up in front of goal, while Darragh Burns is also proving his class on returning to Ireland.

Alan Reynolds’ first match in charge was this fixture as he learned the good and bad of his side.

A run of three victories quickly came to a halt last week in Dundalk, another sign that inconsistency will follow Bohs around until the new manager gets to put his stamp on things at Dalymount.

Nevertheless they are well-placed for a European challenge. Reynolds could certainly endear himself even more to the supporters in north Dublin with a good result here.

The hardest team to beat in the league, or at least to score against, is Galway United.

Derry City were shocked by a Stephen Walsh winner last time they met the Tribesmen. Results like that are simply unaffordable now for City after some early season wobbles.

They've steadied the ship with impressive wins over St Patrick’s Athletic and Waterford. It’s crucial Derry stay with Shamrock Rovers early in the year.

Fit again Patrick Hoban will return to his home county ready to hit the goal trail again.

Dundalk have finally registered a win with new boss Noel King pleased with what he saw in the win over Bohs.

Back in Oriel, Shelbourne will be wary of a side on the improve as their players settle into the league.

Jon Daly is assuming the role of manager under pressure after a sixth defeat of the season.

The St Pat's boss is seeking to find his best XI with keeping goals out also an issue.

Joe Redmond is set to miss a few weeks for Pat's in a big blow.

Drogheda United visit Inchicore tonight, they will revel in the chance to take advanatage of any nerves.

Finally there's a big games above the relegation play-off position that Drogheda occupy.

Sligo Rovers and Waterford have been struggling for wins so this is another crucial game

Padraig Amond will make his return to The Showgrounds 14 years since departing Sligo for Portugal and a long career in England.


Bohemians v Shamrock Rovers, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm


Alan Reynolds has had a bright start in Dalymount
The Dublin rivals are separated by four points despite a troublesome first series for Bohs.

Just over a month since taking over, Alan Reynolds feels better equipped for a second attempt against Shamrock Rovers.

Hw said: "We are all really looking forward to the game, and we well know the importance of Dublin derbies to everyone involved.

"I've been here five weeks now, so I’ve had time to see many players. I would like to think that we are fitter and better organised than we were when we last played Shamrock Rovers in my first game but we know it is going to be a very tough game

Danny Grant (bug) will sit this one out alongside long-term absentees Keith Buckley and Rob Cornwall.

The illness to Grant is not a isolated incident as Reynolds explained.

"There was a bug in the team last week, which played a part as it affected three or four players. It affected us in terms of the changes we needed to make at half-time too. But thankfully, bar Danny, it is gone from the group this week.

"We know that there will be a slightly different game plan against Shamrock Rovers this time compared to how we played them the last time. But we have prepared well.

"The lads were disappointed with themselves last week, particularly in the first half as I said, and I want to see a response from them."

Despite their strong record against Bohs, Stephen Bradley has warned his players not to switch off or be complacent.

He said: We need to make sure we concentrate. I spoke after the Drogheda game, about the last game in Dalymount when we were 2-0 up, but ended up drawing 2-2 out of nowhere really.

"So we know we need to focus, we know what a Dublin derby brings as we've played in enough of them. So we need to be ready for that and impose ourselves on the game and try win the game.

"The thing Bohs have always had is, in the last few years, you look at their wide players, they have pace and are dangerous in transition. So you have to respect that and be ready for it. They've shown since Alan went in, and even before that, they’re very dangerous in that aspect so we have to be ready for that."


Dundalk v Shelbourne, Oriel Park, 7.45pm

Shelbourne face the bottom team of the division tonight, but don't tell that to Damien Duff.

Dundalk's impressive win over Bohs last week indicated they will not sit in 10th spot for long if they can follow it up.

New boss Noel King has paid tribute to his counter part ahead of the game.

"Damien Duff has done great things for the League of Ireland. He gets the publicity, he makes his comments, he highlights the game and the more the game is highlighted in a positive way, the better. So I think he’s been good for us all. Shels are trying to catch the so-called superpowers and he’s making progress so you have to give him full credit for that.

"It was a very good performance from the whole group against Bohemians, even the players who came on, and it'd be great if we can repeat the same thing against Shelbourne.

"At the same time, we know that last week is done. You have to go forward and we have to make sure that we turn in a good performance again. It's a tough match against Shels, who are top of the table, and on paper they’re supposed to beat us but hopefully we can defy the odds again.

"The Oriel Park crowd certainly got involved last week. They were pensive at the start and I knew that was going to happen but the boys played some fantastic football, really attack minded, and it was easy to get behind them, which is what we’ll need in every game."

Dara Keane is doubtful after going off in the win over Bohemians last week while Robbie Mahon, Cameron Elliott and Mayowa Animasahun are also expected to miss out.

Duff feels it's a much stronger Dundalk than the table suggest.

"I said to the players yesterday morning; 'this is the most difficult game we've had in months.’

"I firmly believe it. It’s always a tough place to go Oriel Park, with a new manager in Noel King and a challenging surface. The new manager has rallied them, their senior players all back in, they all played last Friday, they’re playing with an edge, that made the difference. They wanted it more than Bohs. Fully deserved that win.

"They have a lot of quality, but their real hunger and desire, along with Noel, Liam’s and Brian’s knowledge of the game and the league, are evident. We’re not reading too much into the table or their position. it doesn’t show the quality they have all over the pitch. It’s a very difficult game for us."

Shane Griffin is still the only absentee for Shels. Paddy Barrett and Shane Farrell are back in after suspension


Galway United v Derry City, Eamonn Deacy Park, 7.45pm

Galway United have shown they are here to stay in the Premier Division with results so far in the season.

Their record of seven goals scored and conceded in 12 matches is unique.

But it matters little when points are going on the board.

John Caulfield has masterminded a victory over Derry City this season as well as leaders Shelbourne. Shamrock Rovers almost joined that club last week.

Ruaidhri Higgins was under big pressure prior to wins over St Patrick's Athletic and Wateford.

"I find that the first goal is important in any game," Higgins told the Irish News.

"Particularly in this league, but we've shown the capacity as well to come from behind this season, so whether we go in front or go behind, we can react to different situations and that’s really important.

"Galway don’t give up many goals whatsoever and when you analyse the game, they were really well set up and they’re a real threat on the break.

"They’ve got players that can hurt you when the ball turns over, so we need to be ready for that but also stamp our authority on the game because we’re scoring goals and we want to go down there and create opportunities."

Caulfield will serve another ban from tonight as he sits in the stand due to disciplinary infractions.


St Patrick's Athletic v Drogheda United, Richmond Park, 7.45pm

A sixth defeat in 13 has brought problems to Inchicore
Jon Daly will be well aware of the importance of the May fixture run.

Tim Clancy was let go by the Sains close to a year ago which led to taking over.

The FAI Cup final success pointed a a great future for Pat's. However making a host of signings due replace departed starts has led to a slower start to the year than usual.

With four games coming up at home this month, it could be the time for Daly to change the mood at the Stadium of Light.

He said: Our results aren't good enough. There's a couple of performances I've been really disappointed with but there's been other games where we've been really good and we not taken opportunities and then been punished for slack defending so we want to marry it all together.

"It's about making sure you're solid defensively, and when the chances come at the other end, you're ruthless and you take them and that's been the biggest problem for us, we haven't taken our chances and we've let in soft goals and goals at set plays which is unlike us.

"Everyone is frustrated and I get that, I share the same frustrations, that's football, and it can change very very quickly.We've got two games this weekend where we can go and put it right and get ourselves back on the coat tails (of the teams above us).

"Teams have shown in the league, if you put a couple of wins together, all of a sudden you can find yourself at the right end of the table and that's what we need to do, it's as simple as that."

Captain Joe Redmond will miss three to four weeks with the ankle injury he picked up in Derry last Monday, but that the problem is "not as bad as first feared".

Tom Grivosti is getting closer to a return and could feature for the Under-20s in the coming weeks, while Daly is hopeful that Ruairi Keating and Mason Melia will recover in time from knocks they picked upo.

Drogheda defender Jack Keaney serves a one-game ban following a red card in Tallaght, while Evan Weir is injured.

Sligo Rovers v Waterford FC, The Showgrounds, 7.45pm

Padraig Amond faces his former club tonight
This is a vital game for both sides as they fear a battle at the bottom of the table in the latter part of the season.

For Sligo the weekend consists of two home games and they are in need of a turnaround having not won in their last five matches.

Injuries have really hurt the Bit O' Red. They had just two outfield senior players on the bench last week with 18-year-old Owen Elding their other sub used on the night.

He may be called in for a first start given it could be even worst for Sligo tonight.

Simon Power, Nando Pijnaker and John Mahon are ruled out, with only Power likely to feature in the coming weeks.

Will Fitzgerald, Fabrice Hartmann, Max Mata and Wilson Waweru are doubtful for the game.

Ellis Chapman scored the winning goal the last time the teams met in the RSC.

It was the last time Rovers took three points. A big weekend awaits with St Patrick’s Athletic visiting on Monday.

Russell is expecting similar affair to the clash in March.

"Our last game with Waterford was a very tight affair and I expect no different this time around", he said.

"The players are fully focused on getting a positive result in front of our home supporters. We need them right behind us in what is a big weekend with two home fixtures."

The Blues failed to fire last time out against Derry and have also found victories hard to come by with one in their last eight.

Kacper Skwierczyński misses out due to a hip injury. Harvey Macadam & Ryan Burke are both doubtful for the game in the Showgrounds and will be assessed.

Keith Long said: "We want to play with more aggression and create more goalscoring opportunities. That is life in the Premier Division. It's a tough, tough league.

"Every game is big. We have a good group of players, an honest group of players. The atmosphere around the place is very good and we'll work extremely hard. Last week was not our night but we'll get better if we learn our lessons."