Attendance figures from last week's LOI games show the tide is turning
All you need to know ahead of this weekend's League of Ireland fixtures.
After what was an enthralling opening weekend of League of Ireland action, game week two is shaping up to be an even more engrossing affair.
Attendances soared for the league’s first round of fixtures, with over 22,000 people in total attending the weekend’s five games- resulting in an astonishing average attendance of 4,418 people.
The competitiveness of this year’s competition also seems to have improved on recent times, with four of the five opening fixtures resulting in hotly-contested draws.
With all of this week’s ties kicking off at 7.45pm on Friday evening, here’s everything you need to know about this weekend’s games:
Derry City v Cork City
Ruaidhrí Higgins will be looking for his Derry City side to make home advantage count this Friday at the Brandywell, following a disappointing draw on the road to St. Pat’s last time out.
Having dominated their Dublin opposition for the majority of the game, the Candystripes conceded a late set-piece goal which cancelled out Jordan McEneff’s first half finish.
For Cork, the trip to the FAI Cup champions appears a daunting one. Despite playing in front of a sold-out Turner’s Cross, the Leesiders lost 2-1 at home to Bohemians on the opening weekend, leaving Colin Healy’s men at the foot of the table.
Drogheda United v Shamrock Rovers
Fortunate to leave Tolka Park with a point last weekend following Matty Smith’s incredulous miss in the opening half, Drogheda will need to deliver a much improved display if they are to contain Stephen Bradley’s side.
For Rovers, the game will be seen as a chance to rectify their opening day slip up on the road to Sligo, where Graham Burke’s fantastic long-range effort was negated by a disappointing stoppage-time concession.
The Tallaght side will however have to make do without captain Pico Lopes, who picked up a soft straight red card at the Showgrounds for raising a hand to an opponent’s face.
St. Patrick’s Athletic v Shelbourne
Having enjoyed the backing of a sold-out crowd at home to Derry last Friday, St. Pat’s should be looking to capitalise on their last minute equaliser in front of another packed out Richmond Park crowd.
Damien Duff’s side, who should have beaten Drogheda in their maiden fixture, will come to Inchicore looking to contain a threatening forward line which includes the pace of Jake Mulraney, Serge Atakayi and Tommy Lonergan.
Opening day contender for Miss of the Season here from Matty Smith
On another note, well done to @FAIreland for getting the highlights up within seconds of the final whistles! #FridayNights #GreatestLeagueInTheWorld #leagueofireland #MissOfTheSeason pic.twitter.com/0PHR50khVz
— Peilcast🇮🇪🎙 (@ThePeilcast) February 18, 2023
The clash will also see a return to Richmond Park for Shel’s newly-signed centre back Paddy Barrett, who enjoyed a fine debut last Friday night, upon which Duff commented “I’m not surprised he played well, he’s a top player in the league and has played all around the world”.
Bohemians v Dundalk
An excellent 2-1 victory on the road at Turner’s Cross sees Declan Devine’s freshened Bohs side sit atop the Premier Division after the first round. Goals from loan signing Grant Horton and experienced midfielder Jordan Flores, ensured that the Phibsborough club put newly-promoted Cork City to the sword.
With their recently-refurbished terraced stand set to be used for the first time this Friday, the atmosphere is expected to be exuberant at a sold-out Dalymount Park.
Dundalk, who followed up a scintillating first half display against UCD with a second 45 minutes which should have seen the Students claim a famous win, will travel to North Dublin knowing an improved performance is necessary if they are to leave with anything.
UCD v Sligo Rovers
Despite last season’s survival heroics which saw UCD retain their top flight status at the expense of both Finn Harps and Waterford, many had already written Andy Meyler’s youthful side off as relegation fodder.
However, a spirited opening day comeback at Oriel Park leaves the college side knowing that they are more than capable of competing in this league on their day, with a superb second half free kick from forward Ciarán Behan.
Sligo, who themselves enjoyed a last-gasp equaliser at home to the defending champions last weekend, will be heading to the UCD Bowl looking to repeat last October’s 2-0 victory.