First Division Preview: Cork City host neighbours Cobh Ramblers as play-off race takes centre stage


League of Ireland First Division: Cork City (3) vs Cobh Ramblers (0) played at Turners Cross in Cork, Ireland on April 5th, 2024 Credit: David Ribeiro (ETPhotos)

Cork City and Cobh Ramblers top the billing in the League of Ireland First Division on Thursday night as the Leeside foes face one another at Turner’s Cross. 

City are coasting towards automatic promotion this season and are nine points clear of closest challengers UCD with a vastly superior goal difference. 

Cobh, meanwhile, have started to build some momentum under boss Gary Hunt in recent weeks and have won two of their last three league outings against Finn Harps (2-1) and Kerry (1-0). 

They now sit just three points behind fifth-placed Bray Wanderers in the battle for the final play-off berth. 

But they have it all to do against neighbours Cork City away from home. Ramblers have already lost to their county rivals twice this season – losing 3-0 on both occasions home and away. 

And City boss Tim Clancy fired a warning to Ramblers – insisting his side will be ‘fired up’ for the clash. 

“We’ll be fired up for the game,” he told his club’s media team after last weekend’s 2-0 win over Longford Town. “We’ve already had two good results and performances against Cobh. 

“No matter what the result or score, our fans in the Shed will never stop singing and that’s why we don’t accept performances that lack effort, commitment and energy. 

“If players don’t show that, it’s a reason not to be in the team.”

Cork City are set to remain without teenager Cathal O’Sullivan as he continues to nurse an injury but they have been boosted with the return of Malik Dijksteel to the fold. 

Cian Browne, Brendan Frahill, Charlie O’Brien and Pierce Phillips have all been recent absentees for Cobh and boss Hunt may have to contend without them again.

Referee:Daniel Murphy. 

PREDICTION:Cork City 3 – 0 Cobh Ramblers

Finn Harps v UCD, Finn Park – 7.45pm

Should Cork City drop points against Cobh at the Cross, Willie O’Connor’s UCD will be hoping that they can profit and close the gap on the leaders. 

The Students come into their long trip to Ballybofey in buoyant mood after snatching a last-gasp win against Kerry last weekend, extending their unbeaten run to six games, after Eanna Clancy scored twice.

But the Sky Blues have drawn four of those six against Harps (3-3), Athlone Town (2-2), Bray Wanderers (0-0) and Cork City (0-0). 

And they face a Harps side who have slipped up recently having only won once in their last five outings – beating Wexford 1-0. They slumped to a 2-0 loss away to Cobh Ramblers last weekend.

While injuries have cost them dearly, they are well in contention for a play-off spot as they sit in fourth spot on 29 points after 20 games played. 

“The positive is we’re still in the mix,” boss Darren Murphy told Donegal Live. “Thursday is a hugely difficult game and it’s a quick turnaround. We need to be ready.”

UCD will be without defender Harry Curtis via suspension, while Matthew Alonge is closing in on a return. Conor Tourish is expected to remain out for Harps.

Referee:Alan Patchell. 

PREDICTION: Finn Harps 1 – 2 UCD

Bray Wanderers v Athlone Town, Carlisle Grounds – 7.45pm

Managerless Bray Wanderers host play-off rivals Athlone Town on Thursday evening looking to stay in touch with the Co Westmeath side. 

The Seagulls are still awaiting the appointment of a new permanent boss following Ian Ryan’s departure last month, with first-team coaches Paul Heffernan and Lorcan Fitzgerald currently in charge. 

And they face Athlone Town off the back of a 2-0 loss away to Treaty United last weekend. Dario Castelo’s side are, however, riding the crest of a wave and are 10 games unbeaten. 

In fact, their last defeat came against the Seagulls the last time they met at the Carlisle Grounds. 

Just three points currently separate the two clubs in the table – with the Wicklow team in fifth position and the Westmeath side in third place.

Jimmy Corcoran, Ben Feeney, Cole Omorehiomwan and Evan Osam are out for Bray. 

Referee: Lucas Keating. 

PREDICTION: Bray Wanderers 1 – 1 Athlone Town.

Wexford v Treaty United, Ferrycarrig Park – 7.45pm

Out of sorts Wexford will be up against it when they host Treaty United at Ferrycarrig Park on Thursday evening. 

The Slaneysiders are winless in their last four games and have only won once since the start of May – a 1-0 victory against Kerry. 

James Keddy’s side have also slipped out of the play-off positions by virtue of their dismal run of results. 

And they face a Treaty United who are picking up some much-needed momentum after enduring their own struggles this season. 

They won two of their last three games against Bray Wanderers (2-0) and Longford Town (1-0) but lost to Kerry (2-1) during that mini-run of results. 

They remain in eighth but are just seven points off Bray Wanderers at the midway point of the season. Enda Curran, however, is suspended for their trip to the South-East.

Referee: Jason Moore.

PREDICTION:Wexford 2 – 0 Treaty United. 

Kerry v Longford Town, Mounthawk Park – 7.45pm

Kerry assistant manager James Sugrue admits the Kingdom are still hurting from their last gasp defeat against UCD last weekend. 

The First Division strugglers looked on course to pick up a point against the Students last weekend before being undone in injury time from a set-piece. 

But they will be confident after already defeating basement rivals Longford Town this season at Mounthawk Park. 

“We are at home,” Sugrue said. “You are expected to win at home and that’s our mindset too. Our home form has been very good which is positive. Longford coming down is obviously tough but we go out to win every game to be honest. 

“We have the break but back-to-back home games now in the league on either side of that and 6 points is the target. I could see the hurt in the boy’s faces after the UCD and I’ve told them to bring that hurt with them on Thursday and show it on the pitch.”

Kennedy Amechi is a doubt for Kerry while striker Daniel Okwute is suspended. Longford remain with a lengthy absentee list and will be without Jamie Egan, Dean George, Oisin Hand, Viktor Serdeniuk, Luke Wade-Slater, Chris Lyons and Adam Wixted.

Referee: Aaron O’Dowd. 

PREDICTION: Kerry 2 – 0 Longford Town