Derry City face tough test against Dundalk
City hope to close the gap on Sligo at top but opponents transformed under former boss Stephen Kenny will not make it easy
Derry City’s in-form Rory Patterson, who faces Dundalk tonight, celebrates his hat-trick at the UCD Bowl last month. Photograph: Inpho
This time last year Derry and Dundalk were sixth and ninth respectively as they headed into the league’s eighth round of games but their first clash of the campaign tonight pits second against third at Oriel Park.
Derry arrive looking to add to the sense they might, if Sligo ever let up, be genuine contenders while Dundalk will target a fourth win, as many as they managed in the last campaign.
Derry’s start has been impressive with Declan Devine’s side bouncing back from an opening night defeat by the champions to better Sligo in terms of goals scored and lead the chasing pack by four points.
Devine consistently pointed to the problems he suffered with injuries last year with Rory Patterson a case in point. In his first year at the Brandywell he rarely looked fully fit and he hit just five goals in 13 games. This season, it’s five in five, to leave him joint second to Anthony Elding in the scoring charts with team-mate Michael Rafter who spent last year at Dundalk. “I think when you are on a good run then you have to embrace every game that comes,” says Devine who acknowledges results like the home draw with Shamrock Rovers and away win to St Patrick’s provide a good idea of how tough beating Kenny’s side is likely to be.
The visitors travel without Stewart Greacen, Kevin Deery (both knee) and Seán Houston (hamstring) while Stephen O’Donnell is doubtful again for Dundalk whose manager must weigh up whether to start with Tiarnan Mulvenna, Darren Meenan and Chris Shields.
Three points adrift of Dundalk and 12 behind Sligo, Shamrock Rovers know they need to get their season in gear and the visit of Bray Wanderers might seem like the ideal opportunity although, as manager Trevor Croly points out: “Bray have a very good record against Rovers in recent years.”
Wanderers drew twice with Rovers last season and had two wins the season before that but they will be without brothers Danny and Kevin O’Connor this evening (Achilles and knee respectively) while Shane O’Connor and Owen Hyland are doubts. Croly could be missing Seán O’Connor (ankle) while Barry Murphy and Thomas Stewart have been ill. David Elebert and Jason McGuinness are not yet match fit.
Shelbourne take on Drogheda United this evening and Bohemians on Monday as they try to improve on a return of one point so far. Ian Ryan is back from suspension but Glenn Cronin is still out while Ger Hanley is not fully fit. Drogheda will be without Michael Daly and Cathal Brady (thigh and calf respectively) but Alan McNally could feature after starting against Wayside Celtic.
Behind them, on goal difference, UCD face a St Patrick’s side threatening to hit form. The hosts are without Mick Leahy (knee) while Shane McFaul is likely to miss out for the visitors with a groin strain.