Shelbourne head to Tallaght looking to distance themselves from Shamrock Rovers

Stephen Kenny hopes to get his first win as St Patrick’s Athletic manager at Bohemians

Uefa published an article last week on the “resurgent” League of Ireland. Positive reading for fans, even if the copybook was blotted by using quotes by Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley from 2022 and attributing the outdated tagline of “the greatest league in the world” to Shelbourne manager Damien Duff.

That catchphrase was always meant to be tongue-in-cheek but such gimmickry is no longer needed. By Thursday 7,500 tickets had been sold for Friday’s clash at Tallaght stadium between Premier Division leaders Shelbourne and five-in-a-row chasing Shamrock Rovers. It feels like the most important Dublin derby of the season so far.

If Sean Boyd can bag a fifth goal in as many matches, this could be the moment that Rovers’ domination of the domestic game begins to fracture.

“We know Sean really well, he’s a top player,” said Bradley, “we know when he is free of injury he scores goals. He is doing that at the moment.”


The game comes hot on the heels of Monday’s thrilling encounter at Richmond Park, where Shels took the points from their visit to St Patrick’s Athletic thanks to Evan Caffrey’s 96th-minute winner.

Pandemonium ensued, as a tussle broke out among the rival dugouts, and about a thousand celebrating Shels fans had the Inchicore ground shaking.

The law of diminishing marginal returns could be slowing Rovers’ drive for a fifth successive title, although they still eked out a 1-0 win over second-placed Derry City in Tallaght on Monday.

At the midway point last season, Derry were top of the table with 34 points from 17 games. Currently, Ruaidhrí Higgins’s men lie four points behind Shels, on 30 points from 18 matches.

Rovers have 28 points, which is five fewer shy than at this stage last year.

“I believe there is so much more to come from the team, we have left some points behind, but we are doing okay,” said Bradley.

John Caulfield’s Galway United were top of the First Division 12 months ago. Now they are fourth in the top flight with a sturdy 24 points from 16 games, having scored 11 goals and conceded nine.

Serious slumps in form are evident at Dundalk, St Patrick’s Athletic and Bohemians.

Dundalk are on a direct course to relegation since Brian Ainscough bought the club from Andy Connolly, Sean O’Connor and Alan Clarke. At this stage last season they were fifth on 26 points but in advance of their trip to Galway they are beginning their third managerial reign of the season after Jon Daly was appointed on Thursday, following the departure of Noel King and, before him, Stephen O’Donnell. The Lilywhites remain rooted to the bottom, with 12 points and just two wins.

Bohs were seven points better off a year ago and St Pat’s were in the title race, while now they are closer to relegation. The clubs meet at Dalymount Park on Friday as St Pat’s new manager Stephen Kenny seeks to avoid a third straight loss since signing a 5½-year contract.

“I thought the players were tremendous against Shelbourne and we didn’t deserve to lose the game in the way we did, with 20 seconds to go,” said Kenny. “I’ve been very encouraged by a lot of what I saw, and the players can take confidence from that.”

Premier Division (Friday, May 24th)

Bohemian FC v St Patrick’s Athletic, 7.45pm

Derry City v Sligo Rovers, 7.45pm

Galway United v Dundalk, 7.45pm

Shamrock Rovers v Shelbourne, 8pm

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent