Dundalk on the verge of a fifth title win in six years

Little more than pride at stake for Shamrock Rovers as they head to Oriel Park

More than most of the Shamrock Rovers squad that will head to Oriel Park this evening (kick-off 7.20, live on RTÉ2), Roberto Lopes might be forgiven for having already shifted his focus to Friday night's cup final at his old club, Bohemians.

Instead, the 27-year-old seems to be thinking way beyond that, to next season, with the central defender insisting that Stephen Bradley’s side need to use to this occasion to make their intentions for 2020 clear.

“We haven’t beaten Dundalk this year,” says the Dubliner, “so it’s still a massive target for us to go beat them, especially on their home patch and we can put it in their heads for next year, and going forward, that, yeah, we’re coming for them.”

Technically, Dundalk need to win to wrap up their fifth title in six years but a draw would make top spot all but a mathematical certainty and Bradley accepts that even three points for his side this evening would not do anything much more in terms of this season’s title race than delay the inevitable.

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For ‘Pico’ and the other players, though, there is a fair bit of pride to be salvaged by winning the game and making Dundalk wait a while to crack open the champagne.

“I don’t want to hand over any game easy and say, ‘here you go, well done’. It’s not in my nature and it’s not in any of the lads’ nature. We’re playing for pride and if they’re going to win the league, they will have to work until the very end; that’s our aim there. We’re going there with a job to do and we want to get three points.

“We want to spoil the party,” he continues. “If they win the league, fair play to them . . . they have been great. But if we can still affect things then we’ll do our best.”

Outside chance

Bradley sounds like a man who is on board with all of that although there are practical considerations too and when he suggested that Jack Byrne was struggling with the after-effects of some hefty challenges in the game against St Patrick's the other night, he sounded like a man who might not risk his prized midfielder's availability for the cup semi-final for the sake of some face saving.

Joey O'Brien, meanwhile, looks certain to miss out with Neil Farrugia having an outside chance of featuring after having been laid up with a hamstring problem.

For the defending champions, John Mountney and Jordan Flores are absent again while Daniel Kelly, Dane Massey and Sean Murray are all said to be struggling and likely to face late tests.

In the First Division, meanwhile, Shelbourne were presented with the trophy for winning the league after a 7-0 hammering of Limerick at Tolka Park on Saturday while the order of the three teams in the play-off placings were unchanged by the evening’s results

Cabinteely, who won 2-1 in Wexford, will now take on Longford Town, who beat Cobh 3-1 away, with the games to take place on October 4th and 11th.

The winners will progress to take on Drogheda United, who lost 4-1 at Bray, over the following two Fridays after which the team which progresses will have the ninth-placed side in the Premier Division to contend with.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Industry and Employment Correspondent at The Irish Times