by Ryan Bailey
Sligo Rovers will hope to edge one step closer to lifting the Airtricity Premier Division trophy when they welcome bottom of the table Dundalk to the Showgrounds on Monday evening, but Ian Baraclough admits that his side cannot underestimate the Lilywhites.
The Bit O’Red are currently six points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand and Baraclough says that he is pleased with how his players are dealing with the pressure as the club attempt to win their first league crown for 35 years. “There are just seven games left and obviously each game gets more and more important as the season winds down,” said Baraclough. “I’ve been pleased with how we’ve handled each match recently, we’ve coped with the increasing magnitude.”
Dundalk now find themselves seven points adrift at the bottom of the Premier Division as their four-year stay in the top flight remains under severe threat following Friday’s 2-1 defeat by fellow strugglers UCD at Oriel Park. However, caretaker manager Darius Kierans has insisted that his players will “fight right until the death” and insists they have “nothing to lose” on Monday evening.
The home side will be without the injured duo Danny North and Iarfhlaith Davoren while Dundalk’s top scorer Gary Shanahan returns from suspension. Kierans will have to do without as many as seven first team regulars with striker Mark Griffin joining an already busy Oriel Park treatment room with a groin complaint.
Elsewhere, Drogheda United will be hoping to keep the pressure on the league leaders when they welcome Derry City to Hunky Dorys Park. Mick Cooke’s men closed the gap on Friday and will be hoping to take advantage of any slip up from Ian Baraclough’s charges when they face an inconsistent Candystripes outfit. The Drogs will be boosted by the return of Alan McNally, who should replace the suspended Alan Byrne while there are doubts over Eric Foley and Ryan Brennan. Derry boss Declan Devine will be without Stewart Greacen, Rory Patterson and Owen Morrison through injury while centre back Ryan McBride is suspended.
Shamrock Rovers face Bohemians in one of two Dublin derbies in the top flight on Monday evening. The champions' bid to defend their title looks to be all but over after picking up just one point on Friday against Shelbourne and as a result Stephen Kenny's side lie 10 points behind the league leaders.
However there is still plenty to play and Rovers will be eager to avenge a 4-0 defeat at Dalymount Park at the end of June, but must wait on defenders Craig Sives (knee) and Conor Powell (dead leg) who are doubts ahead of game at Tallaght Stadium. Bohemians manager Aaron Callaghan remains without defender Owen Heary (back) and midfielder Ryan McEvoy (ankle).
The other clash in the capital sees St Patrick’s Athletic make the short trip to Tolka Park to face Shelbourne, who will be buoyed by their draw in Tallaght on Friday. St Pat's know they must win their remaining games if they are to have any chance of knocking Sligo off their perch at the top of the table. Shelbourne are without suspended midfielders Glenn Cronin and Paddy Kavanagh, but have Gareth Matthews, Brian Shortall and Kevin Dawson back, while Ian Bermingham and Jake Kelly are doubts for the Saints.
Cork City will be looking to claim successive victories for the first time since May on Monday when they welcome struggling Bray Wanderers to Turner’s Cross. Tommy Dunne has several injury problems to contend with going into the game, with Colin Healy, John Dunleavy and Dan Murray among the absentees. Pat Devlin’s side are now level on points with UCD after a string of poor results and the Seagulls will want to finish the season strongly but they will have to do without the suspended trio of Kevin O’Connor, Jason Byrne and Dean Zambra.