Sligo happy to deal with great expectations
AIRTRICITY LEAGUE:ON THE cusp of a first league championship since 1977, Sligo Rovers’ manager Ian Baraclough says his players are coping well with the great expectation on them prior to today’s potential title decider with St Patrick’s Athletic.
Two points from their remaining three games would end the 35-year wait. Beating their closest rivals in front of an expected crowd of over 5,000 at the Showgrounds would be the perfect way to seal it.
“There would be something wrong with the players if they were not feeling it (pressure) at this stage of the season,” said Baraclough, whose side are unbeaten at home in the league this year.
“There is hope and a weight of expectation and I think we’ve dealt with that very well. We’ve kept five clean sheets in the last seven games. We’ve been unbeaten all season at home, we’ve been top of the league for six months so it’s been talked about for two or three months now.
“A win today would be the icing on the cake. It has been a tremendous effort by the players and everyone at the club. Our objective at the start of the season was the top three, to qualify for Europe and then progress further.
“We’ve surpassed that and you want to make it that glorious ending now. We have that chance because of the good work done all year and I hope we finish it off now.”
Alan Keane, Iarfhlaith Davoren and Danny North are out injured for the remainder of the season while a change at right-back may be required as Séamus Conneely is a doubt having injured a hamstring in Cork last week.
An ankle injury hampering winger Jake Kelly is St Patrick’s main concern. They are also without Ryan Coombes, who is in Luxembourg with Paul Doolin’s Ireland under-19s.
Having clinched their cup final berth last Sunday, it’s another huge game for St Patrick’s, who are unbeaten away from home in the league this season.
“It gives us a chance to catch up on Sligo in a game that I think all the added pressure will be on them . . . the league is theirs to lose,” said St Patrick’s striker Christy Fagan.
A team of Maltese officials will take charge of the game between UCD and third-placed Drogheda United at the UCD Bowl as part of an inter-league referee exchange between the FAI and the Malta FA. It’s hoped that officials from Ireland will travel to Malta in 2013 as part of the arrangement.
Defender Seán Russell (groin) joins keeper John Kelly (groin) and strikers Cillian Morrison (ankle) and Graham Rusk (shin) on the sidelines for UCD.