While welcoming the intensifying rivalry between the clubs, Stephen Bradley dismissed as 'nonsense' talk of gamesmanship levelled at his Shamrock Rovers players by Cork City manager John Caulfield this week.
The sides meet at Tallaght Stadium tonight when victory for leaders Cork, who are 17-points clear, would seal the title, should reigning champions Dundalk fail to beat St Patrick’s Athletic at Oriel Park.
Referencing his captain Alan Bennett's red card after clashing with Rovers' defender Dave Webster in the EA Sports Cup semi-final defeat at the same venue last month, Caulfield had said: "We've to be prepared for gamesmanship, and from that point of view, we need our discipline because we got caught the last day with Alan getting sent off and we have to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Rovers manager Bradley stressed his focus tonight is solely on overtaking Derry City, idle this weekend, into third place in the table which carries an automatic Europa League place.
“They’re about to win the league and they deserve to win it. Well done to them and the best of luck to them,” said Bradley of Cork. “Wherever they win it, whether it’s here, or somewhere else in the next few weeks, they’ve earned that right.”
Stressing his is a team going in the right direction, Bradley is relishing the rivalry between the clubs getting bigger.
“There is going to be a rivalry because we want to challenge where they are. We want what they have.
“That rivalry will build itself either way,” added Bradley before quipping on Caulfield’s gamesmanship comment: “I just don’t want to talk about nonsense in terms of he did this, she did that, there were handbags thrown and lipstick and all that. It’s nonsense.”
An uncanny twist sees Webster suspended for Rovers tonight, though right-back Simon Madden returns from a one-match ban. Left-back Luke Byrne (hamstring) remains out.
Winger Stephen Dooley is Cork's chief concern as he nurses a calf strain.
“We know it will be difficult going up to Tallaght,” said Caulfield. “We’re in a great position. We need two wins, we’ve a difficult run-in and we’ve to earn it in the right way. For me, it’s about keeping our heads down and making sure that we can get the results over the next number of weeks.”
Tonight’s fixtures (7.45)
Bohemians v Galway United
Home: 13/10; Draw: 11/5; Away: 115
Dundalk v St Patrick’s Athletic
Home: 4/11; Draw: 15/4; Away: 8/1
Limerick v Finn Harps
Home: 5/6; Draw: 13/5; Away: 16/5
Shamrock Rovers v Cork City (Live on RTE2)
Home: 21/10; Draw: 11/5; Away: 11/8
Athlone Town v Cobh Ramblers
Home: 13/2; Draw: 4/1; Away: 4/11
Cabinteely v Longford Town
Home: 15/8; Draw: 21/10; Away: 31/20
UCD v Wexford
Home: 1/3; Draw: 15/4; Away: 8/1
Waterford v Shelbourne
Home: 4/9; Draw: 16/5; Away: 6/1