Tallaght time for Derry’s title challenge

Northerners can join St Pat’s at top of table if they beat Shamrock Rovers

With their own European adventure due to start next week when they head to Turkey, Derry City can take at least temporary advantage of St Patrick’s Athletic’s distraction over the last few days to join them at the top of the table if they can manage a win against Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght tonight.

Manager Declan Devine points to City's record at the venue as providing the basis for optimism, as will the 2-1 win his side secured when the two last met at the Barndywell, but Rovers had won four on the trot in the league prior to last week's disappointing draw at Bray, and the home side will see this as the sort of game in which victory can inject some momentum to their own push for a place back in Europe next season.

The game will be preceded by the launch of Tallaght Time, a book covering Rovers' first few, enormously successful, seasons at their new home by occasional Irish Times contributor MacDara Ferris and Karl Reilly. Perhaps the renewed talk of the 2011's Europa League campaign will provide some added inspiration this evening.

Trevor Croly will, in any case, be boosted by the availability of striker Eamon Zayed, whose international clearance has come through. However, Barry Murphy is ruled out despite having bruised rather than broken ribs, as is David Elebert.


Devine has quite a few more problems to contend with, as the likes of Patrick McEleney, Barry Molloy, Ruaidhri Higgins and Kevin Deery are all sidelined by injuries. Rory Patterson is a doubt, too, but David McDaid is available to play after his clearance was also completed.

Dundalk, meanwhile, are the only team in the league with a better away record than Derry, who they beat at the Brandywell only last week, but their record at Oriel, where the artificial pitch really should give them an advantage over visitors, has been pretty dismal this season, with just 12 points from nine games.

Current form
On current form, Stephen Kenny's side should make it 15 from 10 this evening by beating Bohemians after which a sustained improvement could yet enable them to mount a genuine challenge for the title.

Brian Gartland comes into the reckoning after signing during the week while Stephen O’Donnell returns from suspension and Mark Rossiter is fit again. However, Keith Ward is out long term, Chris Shields misses out with a hip injury and John Mountney is a doubt (knee).

The visitors are without Ciarán Nangle and Ryan McEvoy while Owen Heary faces a late decision on his involvement as Aaron Callaghan looks for an end to a run of what he regards as “good performances but bad results”.

He is also hoping to have a look at some prospective signings, particularly an additional striker or two, in tomorrow’s friendly against Derby County (kick-off 3pm).

In the night’s other top-flight game, Shelbourne will be without Paul Crowley (hip) and Dean Kelly (hamstring) while Johnny McDonnell also has doubts about Robert Bayly (knee) and Garrett O’Connor.

Tommy Dunne, though, would doubtless kill for an injury list like that, with the southerners once again missing a long list of players including Kevin Murray, Brian Lenihan, Danny Morrissey and Colin Healy.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times