Hoban confident Dundalk can maintain their Premier League title challenge all the way to the end

In-form striker on a high as Stephen Kenny’s men face Shelbourne at Tolka Park

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny has seen his side close the gap on current leaders St Patrick’s Athletic to just one point in advance of tonight’s series of games. Dundalk visit Shelbourne while St Pat’s face Shamrock Rovers in a big Dublin derby clash at Tallaght. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny has seen his side close the gap on current leaders St Patrick’s Athletic to just one point in advance of tonight’s series of games. Dundalk visit Shelbourne while St Pat’s face Shamrock Rovers in a big Dublin derby clash at Tallaght. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

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After last week’s stirring home win over Shamrock Rovers, Patrick Hoban is convinced Dundalk can maintain their remarkable season under Stephen Kenny and challenge all the way for the title.

Striker Hoban, who yesterday received the Airtricity/Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Player of the Month award for July, scored twice in that 3-1 victory which edged Dundalk, who only maintained their Premier Division status via the promotion/relegation play-off last season, to within a point of leaders St. Patrick’s Athletic.

“Definitely,” said 22-year Hoban when asked would he be disappointed if Dundalk weren’t to win the league.

“I always say ‘what’s the point of finishing second’. I always aim as high as possible. There is a belief there and I don’t see why not.

“We’re one point off St. Pat’s, though they’ve a game in hand. Sure, anything can happen.”

Hoban will be eager to extend his personal good form of five goals in his last four games when Dundalk take their challenge to relegation-threatened Shelbourne tonight.

Manager Kenny waits for injury checks on defenders Mark Rossiter and Dane Massey as Keith Ward and John Mountey remain sidelined.

Shelbourne, who’ve moved two points clear of the foot of the table on the back of a five-match unbeaten run, continue without the injured Paul Crowley, Robert Bayly and Mark Leech.

With fellow midfielders James Chambers and Stephen Rice suspended, new signing Richie Ryan is set for his Shamrock Rovers debut ahead of the Dublin derby with St. Patrick’s at Tallaght Stadium.

Central defender Jason McGuinness is also banned for Rovers who are again missing injured striker Mark Quigley (calf) while Tommy Stewart is a doubt with a ‘dead leg’

St. Patrick’s make an enforced change in midfield as Killian Brennan is suspended while Shane McFaul is a doubt due to a groin injury.

Missing the experience of injured central defender Stewart Greacen and midfielders Barry Molloy and Kevin Deery will hamper Derry City’s hopes of getting their season back on track after six defeats from their last seven games in all competitions, when they travel to UCD, themselves buoyed by an encouraging win at Bohemians last week.

With Mark Langtry and James Kavanagh serving additional two-match suspensions, UCD manager Martin Russell will hope that attacking midfielder Robbie Benson shakes off a knee injury to give him the option of naming an unchanged team.

Limerick are also hit by suspensions as both defender Shaun Kelly and midfielder David O’Leary are banned for their trip to Drogheda United. Stuart Taylor is once again missing the set-piece ability of the injured Shane Tracy, though the Limerick boss will be happy to have his leading scorer Axel Bossekota back from suspension.

Drogheda are without midfielders Eric Foley and Gary O’Neill while Graham Rusk needs to prove his fitness.

Suspension deprives Stuart Ashton of central defender Kalen Spillane and influential winger Daryl Horgan in his first league game as caretaker manager of Cork City when they take on bottom side Bohemians at Turners’s Cross.

Though Colin Healy is fit to return to their midfield, reserve ‘keeper Kevin Burns and defenders Darren Dennehy and Kevin Murray remain out injured while Ian Turner, John Dunleavy and Neal Horgan are fitness concerns.

Bohemians, stunned by their home defeat to UCD last week which saw them slip two points adrift at the bottom, are more than happy to welcome back Dave Mulcahy and Ryan McEvoy to their midfield, though Keith Buckley is suspended and Andy Mulligan and Chris Lyons are out injured.

Tonight’s fixtures (7.45 unless stated)

Premier Division

Cork City v Bohemians

Home: 10/11, Draw: 9/4, Away: 3/1

Drogheda United v Limerick

Home: 6/5, Draw: 11/5, Away: 11/5

Shamrock Rovers v St. Patrick’s Athletic (8.0)

Home: 6/4, Draw: 11/5, Away: 7/4

Shelbourne v Dundalk (8.0)

Home: 13/5, Draw: 9/4, Away: evens

UCD v Derry City

Home: 10/3, Draw: 5/2, Away: 4/5

First Division

Finn Harps v Salthill Devon (8.0)

Home: 1/2, Draw: 11/4, Away: 5/1

Mervue United v Wexford Youths

Home: 8/13, Draw: 5/2, Away: 4/1

Waterford United v Cobh Ramblers

Home: 4/7, Draw: 11/4, Away: 4/1