Bit O’Red edge closer to league title
Sligo Rovers can almost taste the Airtricity League title with just four games remaining, however, with crucial games coming up against St Pat’s- who are not out of it by any means- Drogheda United and reigning champions Shamrock Rovers, a win against Cork City this Friday would certainly ease the nerves of everyone from Yeats’ country.
Losing only one game thus far has been remarkable for a flamboyant Rovers side but the Cork trip will once again test the mettle of Ian Barraclough’s side.
Although they have answered all the questions with their recent form, every game produces a different set of problems to be dealt with and there’s no doubt that as they approach the finishing line one or two will start to buckle under the pressure- it happens to every team at every level.
However, I do believe there’s enough experience within the squad to cope with one or two feint hearts.
Turners Cross is an extremely difficult place to come away with anything but if Sligo reproduce the form of late I expect them to return home with all three points.
Meanwhile, Derry City entertain old-rivals Shelbourne at the Brandywell in the first of the FAI Cup semi-finals to be played on Sunday, which is clearly a massive tie for the Derry management duo of Declan Devine and Paul Hegarty.
Under serious pressure following a run of very poor results and indeed performances, the pair would certainly regain some belief by defeating their Dublin foes by reaching a second major final this year- losing the Setanta Sports Cup final on penalties to Crusaders at the Oval earlier this season in Belfast still annoys the Candystripes, who feel aggrieved at a very poor refereeing decision, five minutes from time, which effectively cost them the game.
Derry have had a number of long-term serious injuries this year with at times four or five players missing- most weeks- but as they prepare for Sunday Devine has almost a full panel to pick from, which hasn’t happened very often this term- the only definite non-starter will be striker Rory Patterson, who has a long-standing hamstring injury.
However, although he will be able to field his strongest side for quite some time match-fitness is going to be an issue. Kevin Deery has just come back into the side following an absence of almost four months and Stewart Greacan, in particular, hasn’t looked a hundred percent after missing several games as well.
Furthermore, skipper Barry Molloy, who been the driving-force of the team on many occasions this year has been bedevilled by issues during the entire season, whilst Stephen McLaughlin has been receiving painkilling injections to ease a long-standing problem as well.
On paper, Derry may look better than they have for quite some time but the tempo and nerves of the occasion will take its toll.
Shel’s won earlier this year at the Brandywell and will obviously take great confidence from their display on the night, which was very impressive indeed.
However, semi-finals are a completely different ball-game- they tend to be very nervy affairs.
If Derry can keep a clean sheet, I believe they will win, however, they will certainly have to defend a lot better than they did against Sligo last week, when they conceded four- it could have been a great deal worse but for poor Rovers finishing.
And, despite beating Dundalk at the Brandywell last Tuesday night they looked less than convincing at the back.
How Greacan and Co defend will determine the outcome of the game in my view.
In the other tie, I think St Pat’s will have too much for Dundalk!
by: Felix Healy, October 5, 2012