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02nd Mar 2023

Title favourites meet as League of Ireland set for another record-breaking weekend

Rory Fleming

title favourites

Another captivating weekend awaits domestic football fans.

Each passing match week brings with it an increased sense of intrigue and attention to the League of Ireland, with grounds set to be sold out across the division again this Friday.

From red cards to handshake snubs and even rumours of a reported Premier League takeover bid, the past week has been an action-laden one for fans of Irish domestic football.

Premier League club Bournemouth had reportedly been keen on investing in Dundalk.

Heading into the third round of fixtures, there are a host of compelling encounters for the neutral to enjoy, including a Dublin derby between table-topping Bohemians and Damien Duff’s slow-starting Shelbourne side.

However, the majority of eyes will be fixed firmly on what is set to be a fascinating clash in Tallaght between last season’s top two, as a winless Shamrock Rovers take on FAI Cup winners Derry City.

We take a closer look at all five of this weekend’s games below, with each kicking off at 7.45 pm on Friday evening, bar the 8 pm start time at Tallaght Stadium.

Rovers are missing three centre-halves through suspension.

Shamrock Rovers v Derry City

A title decider three games in? Not quite, but the final result in Tallaght will surely act as a launchpad for whoever emerges victorious, as Rovers seek to overhaul the two-point gap between themselves and Ruaidhrí Higgins’ side.

The four-in-a-row chasing Rovers side have the benefit of home advantage on Friday night. However, a torrid disciplinary record sees them miss the centre-half trio of Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace and Daniel Clearly.

A make-shift Hoops backline will need to deliver a resolute display if they are to contain Derry’s free-flowing attack, including the likes of Patrick McEleney and former Arsenal youngster Jordan McEneff – the latter hoping to score for the third successive game.

Jordan flores celebrates his second goal of the season.

Shelbourne v Bohemians.

Damien Duff’s side return to Tolka Park this weekend in search of a first league win of the season, following a 1-0 defeat away to Dublin rivals St. Pat’s in their previous outing.

Bohs, on the other hand, have enjoyed a tremendous start to their league campaign. The Gypsies backed up an opening weekend away win to Cork with a 2-1 victory over Dundalk in front of a sold-out Dalymount Park.

The Phibsborough club will make the short trip across north Dublin with the backing of a sold-out away fan’s section, with Bohs selling their entire allocation of 850 tickets in just 10 minutes.

St. Pats celebrate their late winner over Shels.

Dundalk v St. Patrick’s Athletic.

Two sides with contrasting starts to the season seems to be the theme of the weekend, as Stephen O’Donnell’s side look to regroup following defeat at Dalymount Park last time out.

Pats conversely have begun the season with a draw against title-chasing Derry before snatching a late-winner against Shelbourne thanks to former Bolton striker Eoin Doyle, in front of Richmond Park at full capacity.

Dundalk, who have been subject to much speculation over the past week regarding their ownership situation, will hope the backing of the Oriel Park faithful can push them over the line against Tim Clancy’s side.

Mata was the Patrick hero for Sligo at UCD.

Drogheda United v Sligo Rovers.

Drogheda are another side in search of a first league win of the season but will be buoyed by their 89th-minute equaliser against defending champions Shamrock Rovers in the previous round.

The Bit O’ Red make the journey to Louth coming off the back of a contentious 3-2 victory away to UCD, which saw striker Max Mata slot a hattrick which included two penalties.

Sligo manager John Russell described his side as “a work in progress” following that victory against the students, and will need to see further improvements if they are to break down a mean-looking Drogheda defence.

Cork are in search of their first points of the season.

Cork City v UCD

The Leesiders prop up the Premier Division table following consecutive defeats at the hands of Bohs and Derry, but will be hoping that a return to the raucous atmosphere of Turner’s Cross can inspire a performance against Andy Meyler’s UCD.

Delivering a fine display against Sligo last Friday, the students looked set to have secured at least a point until the referee incredulously pointed to the spot in the 82nd minute for a foul which occurred outside of the area.

UCD, who recorded a draw away to Dundalk on the opening weekend, will have no fear heading to Colin Healy’s newly-promoted side.

Despite losing a raft of talent in the off-season, the Students are more than capable of competing in the league.

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