The Hoops are looking to extend their lead at the top of the table to 11 points on Friday night when Sligo Rovers come to Tallaght to play in front of RTÉ’s live TV cameras (kick off 7.45pm).
Shamrock Rovers come into the game on the back of five domestic wins in a row and have only conceded the one goal in those games. They’ve scored ten goals in the last two league games alone and know three wins from their final five games is all they need to be certain of securing the title.
“Every week we don’t change,” said Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley when asked about the finishing line in the title race. “It’s about respecting who we’re playing, respect their strengths and weaknesses and then going and imposing ourselves on the game and get three points. That’ll be the aim again against Sligo on Friday.
“They have some really good and dangerous attacking players. You look all over the pitch with the likes of Coughlan and Junior, they have pace and they’re dangerous in the attacking part of the pitch. They’ve been excellent since the restart. I watched the game against Derry the other night and they were very good so it’s going to be a difficult game.”
The 4-0 win last Sunday night in Oriel Park set a real marker against the League of Ireland champions from the last two seasons. “It wasn’t about that for us, it was about going there and making sure we performed like we had been doing and getting three points.
“Looking back on it there were so many pleasing aspects to the performance – our work rate, our play with the ball and our tempo in and out of possession. Overall it was really good.”
In Oriel Park Jack Byrne scored twice and provided the assist for Liam Scales’ headed goal in the 4-0 win rounded off by Byrne’s brilliant finish with his left foot from outside the area late on.
“It was a fantastic finish. The run before it was really impressive in terms of getting to the ball first of all and then only having two touches to put it into the net; one to take it around the goalkeeper and one to finish with his left foot. It was a really difficult finish and a really difficult skill but I thought it was outstanding.”
The Bit O'Red’s bid for European football next year will be tested in Tallaght – a venue where they have an awful recent record.
Their last win in Dublin 24 was back in 2013 (a 2-1 victory) but Liam Buckley’s men who sit fourth in the table will come with some confidence as they have been in great form since the return from the extended COVID-19 break.
The last gasp win on Tuesday at home to Derry City brought their tally to 19 points from the ten games played since the league restarted. However they only have one win and one draw on the road in that spell.
Ryan De Vries got the late winner against Derry – his third goal of the season on a night that Ed McGintyearned his third clean sheet of the league campaign.
“I thought we played well against Derry,” said Liam Buckley. “We had to keep going and the goal came late on. I felt it was deserved and the players got their reward. Our control of the ball and control of the game was good.
“We passed it better, linked it in better, and I was chuffed for the players because I want them to keep possession because it will lead to more chances and get results.
“If we can bring similar displays into the last five four games, we’ll pick up more points. All we can do is try to keep putting in performances to win one game.
“There’ll be more twists and turns and we have to dig in and give ourselves a chance of a strong finish. It’s important to be attached to the top end of the table, it can change in an instant.
“We’re playing the champions in waiting. It’s a tough game without doubt and a new challenge to take on. But it’s a one-off game. We got a point there last year and we had to really dig in.
“I’ve said to the boys that we need a big effort to finish off this season to make sure we stay away from the bottom and get up as high as we can. It would be a great result for us to come away with something and I do feel we can do it certainly.”
Referee: Damien MacGraith
It is 462 days since Shamrock Rovers last league defeat in Tallaght.
Jack Byrne is the joint top scorer in the league alongside Pat Hoban. Byrne has seven goals this season from 13 matches, compared with eight he scored last year from 33 league appearances.
Ronan Coughlan is top scorer for the Bit O’Red with four goals. He scored eight last season.
Shamrock Rovers 2/9; Draw 9/2; Sligo Rovers 9/1.
2-0 home win for the Hoops
Injured: Rory Gaffney, Pico Lopes
Injured: Danny Kane, Sigitas Olkerkis, Johnny Dunleavy.
Doubtful: Regan Donelon