League of Ireland: Mick Cooke's St Patrick's Day and weekend preview

Ex-Drogheda United looks at another busy set of fixtures in the Premier Division

Gary Shaw, Shamrock Rovers

Gary Shaw ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

The Monday night SSE Airtricity League action left an interesting complexion on the Premier Division table.

Cork City are clear at the top after champions and recent rivals Dundalk fell to defeat at an impressive Derry City.

At the bottom, St Patrick's Athletic,Galway United and Sligo Rovers have worries.

On St Patrick's Day, Cork City face a trip to Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians welcome Galway United, before four games on Saturday. 

Ex-Drogheda United and Ireland women's manager Mick Cooke has previewed all six weekend fixtures.

Shamrock Rovers vs Cork City

Cork City will be looking for five wins from five and with striker Sean Maguire already having scored in all four previous games, they will be favourites against a Shamrock Rovers team still finding their feet.

Gary Shaw scored twice last time out to help Rovers beat Galway United 2-1 and Mick feels "it's very strange that Gary Shaw hasn't partaken in any of the previous three earlier games. He's picked on Monday and scores a brace. A very good player and prolific scorer when he's fit."

While Rovers boss Stephen Bradley looks to find his best team, Mick feels Cork's experience will prove the difference at Tallaght Stadium.

"I think it will be like the previous game where Rovers were at home to Derry and I predicted a Derry victory there on experience," he said.

"I think that Cork would hold that slight advantage on Shamrock Rovers as well." 

Prediction: "I would give Cork City the slight edge and obviously they have Maguire scoring goals - a young boy who should have been in Martin O'Neill's 39-man squad."  

Bohemians vs Galway United

After losing their opening two matches, there were major worries about Bohemians, especially with three teams going down automatically.

But they have roared back first with a 3-2 win over Bray Wanderers from 2-0 down and then a creditable 1-0 win at Limerick to ease concerns.

Galway United on the other hand have yet to soar and have picked up a single point so far.

"Bohs striker Dinny Corcoran has started the season well and he's a hard man to stop," says Mick of a player he managed at Drogheda.

On the overall factors behind Bohs' turnaround, Mick feels: "Maybe it has taken the first couple of games for Keith Long to find out that some of these younger players aren't quite ready yet and he's reverted back to the more experienced. He played Ian Morris with his experience in England which would help, plus Lorcan Fitzgerald and Derek Pender."

Mick says Galway have made a "messy start" but notes how often they hit the woodwork at Finn Harps.

Prediction: "I would go for Bohs on the back of their two wins".

Martin Russell

Limerick vs Finn Harps

Both sides sit on four point, although Limerick have a game in hand and Mick believes a tough fixture is on the cards for Martin Russell's team.

"It's going to be a hard game for them. I watched Harps on Monday night against St Pats and by God, they gave it everything and that was the big difference on the night. Finn Harps wanted the three points more on the night than St Pats did," he said.

Prediction: "I wouldn't be surprised if Harps went to Limerick and took minimum a point off them." 

Derry City vs Drogheda United

Derry City have a 100% record but having played a game less than Cork City above them. Drogheda's fine start has slowed down a bit with two losses. Mick had fancied Derry as dark horses ahead of the new season and remains impressed by them, especially their back four.

"If Derry get Rory Patterson back fit, they will be a big threat. They're very, very hard to beat with the back four and experienced keeper that they have," he said.

"They also have an extremely good midfield who protect the back four very well and get forward as well. There's plenty of energy in their midfield.

"Drogheda, great start to the season but now they've lost two games. Reality has hit home." 

Prediction: "Certainly on Derry's start to the season, to me this is a home win".

Dundalk vs St Patrick's Athletic

After losing to Derry on Monday, Dundalk will look to get back on track immediately against a Pats side who have been a surprise package in a bad way by picking up just one point from a possible 12.

"I would worry about Pats but I don't think they will be in relegation trouble," says Mick, who saw them make a good start against Harps before "the wheels fell off" and defeat occurred.

As for Dundalk's defeat, he doesn't have major concerns after the Derry game, saying: "Travelling up there not too long after their European exploits, they probably hadn't had a long pre-season as most teams and all of a sudden you have a double header Friday and Monday. That might have caught up with Dundalk a small bit. I think Stephen Kenny will now prefer a game a week for a while."  

Prediction: "Dundalk will want to get back on track and I think they'll win this game."  

Sligo Rovers vs Bray Wanderers

Eight points already separate the sides with Sligo at the foot of the table and Bray flying quite high. 

"Sligo were bottom after seven games last year and here we are heading into the fifth game. On the form that Bray have hit, they bounced back well against Drogheda and that will raise their confidence again."  

Prediction: "For me, Bray will take the three points there".