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.
Central defender Alan McNally returns from a ban for Drogheda, though Brennan brothers Ryan and Gavin, along with fellow midfielder Eric Foley, are suspended.
Cork City have midfielder Gearóid Morrissey back from suspension for their trip to Shelbourne. Garry Buckley (ankle) and Brian Lenihan (back) are out injured while striker Keigan Parker has left the club to return to Scotland for personal reasons.
Full-back Gareth Matthews is suspended for a Shelbourne side badly in need of a lift after their morale-shattering cup semi-final defeat. Defender Ian Ryan (hip) and influential winger Paddy Kavanagh (knee) are out.
Central defender Colin Hawkins and winger Gary McCabe are suspended for Shamrock Rovers who go for a third successive win when they entertain cup finalists Derry City at Tallaght Stadium. Rovers boss Brian Laws waits on Conor McCormack and Killian Brennan, both of whom have calf injuries. Barry Molloy is a doubt for Derry due to a hip flexor problem.
Striker Mark Griffin remains suspended for Dundalk who host Bohemians at Oriel Park. Defender Paul Whelan and midfielder Stephen Maher, cup-tied for their semi-final defeat return.
Bohemians are without suspended central defender Kevin Feely and midfielder Adam Martin (ankle).
Dundalk v Bohemians Oriel Park, 7pm
Shamrock Rvrs v Derry City Tallaght, 7pm
Shelbourne v Cork City Tolka Park, 8pm
Sligo Rvrs v St Pat’s Showgrounds, 3.45pm
UCD v Drogheda Utd UCD Bowl, 7.45pm
Next Friday (all 7.45pm)
Drogheda Utd v Sligo Rvrs H Dorys Park
Derry City v St Pat’s Ath Brandywell
Cork City v Dundalk Turners Cross
Bray v Bohemians Carlisle Grounds
Friday, October 26th (all 7.45pm)
Bohemians v Drogheda Utd Dalymount Park
Dundalk v Bray Oriel Park
St Pat’s Ath v Cork City Richmond Park
Sligo Rvrs v Shamrock Rvrs Showgrounds
UCD v Shelbourne The UCD Bowl
Today’s Final Round (all 7.45pm)
Athlone Town v Waterford Utd Athlone
Finn Harps v Longford Town Finn Park
Limerick FC v Wexford Yths Jackman Park
Mervue United v SD Galway Fahy’s Field
Limerick FC have already won the First Division title and are promoted to the Premier Division (Monaghan Utd withdrew from Premier Division this season, so there is no automatic relegation to First Division).
In the Promotion/Relegation play-off series, Longford Town host Waterford United next weekend, with the return leg the following weekend (October 26th/27th).
The winning club will play the 11th placed team in the Premier Division (almost certainly Dundalk FC) in a two-legged play-off next month, with the winner playing in the 2013 Premier Division.