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Dublin: 13 °C Monday 31 August, 2015

The west’s awake as Gypsies in town

Alan Smith previews a packed weekend of League of Ireland soccer.

Paul Cook: Sligo welcome Bohemians for the televised clash at the Showgrounds.
Paul Cook: Sligo welcome Bohemians for the televised clash at the Showgrounds.
Image: Inpho

ALTHOUGH THE EASTER weekend series of fixtures got underway in the First Division last night, there’s a full programme of Premier Division games down for decision this evening.

The pick of those ties comes at The Showgrounds where Sligo Rovers welcome Bohemians to the west (live on RTE 2, ko 7.35).

Bohs will be quite disappointed that they could only draw with Shamrock Rovers at Dalymount Park last week, and they face another difficult test against Paul Cook’s side.

Sligo crashed out of the Setanta Cup at the hands of Shamrock Rovers earlier in the week but they’ve been solid in the league and currently find themselves tied for top spot with the Hoops and Derry.

The Candystripes have been achieving slightly better than what was expected of them at the beginning of the season and they’ll be confident of a result at home to St Patrick’s Athletic. Pat’s threw away a one goal lead at home to UCD last weekend, and it’s very difficult to know what to expect from Pete Mahon’s side. Derry have certainly been far more consistent and look like worthy favourites to win here.

Game of two halves

Interestingly, all the sides currently in the top five have yet to win away from home, and with four out of the five – Bohs being the exception – at home this weekend,  it also looks like the gap between the top half and the bottom half could very well extend.

There’s four points now between fifth-placed Bohemians and St Pat’s directly below them, but perhaps what is more surprising is that Dundalk are languishing below the Inchicore side seven games in. Ian Foster’s team had been predicted to be in the top three this season, but they already have some ground to make up.

Three points away to local rivals Drogheda United would be a big help though, with the Lilywhites making the short trip south to Hunky Dorys Park. Drogs, as mentioned continuously in this column, are incredibly weak and they could be relegated quicker than any team in LoI history. It seems inconceivable that they’ll pick up their first win tonight, despite Dundalk’s slow start to the season.

While Dundalk have failed to ignite, one side that have hit the ground running in an unexpected fashion are Bray Wanderers. The Seagulls continue to impress and they welcome Galway United to the Carlisle Grounds looking to keep up with the top three.

They could even end up on top of the pile depending on other results, but that would mean Shamrock Rovers, Sligo and Derry all need to drop points.

First Division

In that aforementioned First Division clash last night, 10-man Shelbourne defeated Waterford United 1-0 at the RSC, meaning Cork City need to defeat Salthill Devon in the early kick off (3pm) to retake the lead at the top.

Monaghan, if Cork don’t win, could also be in first position as they entertain Wexford Youths, while in the other First Division games lowly Finn Harps welcome Longford Town, while Athlone face Mervue United at home.

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