There’s every indication that the Airtricity Premier Division could go right to the wire, with Dundalk and Cork City dominating the 2018 title race. One last head to head encounter before the end of the campaign could make the difference, while either side lasting the pace may also be affected by their participation in other competitions.
Given that Dundalk and Cork City are so far ahead of everyone else in the Airtricity Premier Division, anyone following Irish football betting will already know it’s a two-horse race for the title. However, with such a packed fixture list for both teams throughout August and September, so many games in all competitions could take its toll.
Image Source: @DundalkFC via Twitter
Dundalk end July and start August with a challenging Europa League duel against Cypriot side AEK Larnaca, for their chance to reach the Third Qualifying Round, where the victors will face either Dutch giants Ajax or Austrian outfit Sturm Graz. The Lilywhites also face two games against Cobh Ramblers in the space of a week between 6th and 11th August. The first encounter is away in the Irish League Cup semi-finals, while the second is at home in the FAI Cup.
Meanwhile, after their elimination from the Champions League, the consolation prize for Cork City is the mouth-watering prospect of facing Celtic in the Third Qualifying Round of the Europa League, should the Scottish champions navigate their way past Norwegian side Rosenborg. In terms of their fixture list, the Rebel Army don’t have to worry about the Irish League Cup, having lost to Waterford on penalties back in April. However, they take on Home Farm in the FAI cup on 11th August.
Of course, the knock-on effect of both teams competing in the Europa League is fixture congestion, with league games already having to be rescheduled. That in itself brings the additional challenge of less time for the players to recuperate between matches, meaning the strength and depth of the respective squads will go a long way towards which team copes best during coming weeks.
— Cork City FC (@CorkCityFC) July 23, 2018
As things stand, Cork City are still on track to repeat the 2017 league and cup double, although Dundalk are in with a realistic shout of winning the League of Ireland, FAI Cup and League Cup treble; a feat which has only been achieved five times in Irish football history and was last won by Derry City during the 1988/89 season.
Insofar as the league title race is concerned, Dundalk have looked the strongest contender of late, enjoying an impressive run of 10 consecutive wins, which culminated in a vital 2-1 home win against Cork City at the end of June. Nevertheless, after the frustration for Cork City continued with 0-0 draw against Shamrock Rovers, they bounced back to winning form with a thumping 5-0 victory against Derry City.
Given how tight things are at the top of the table, the pivotal encounter could well be the fixture on 21st September, when Derry host Cork at Oriel Park. The winner of that particular duel would not only have an opportunity to open a gap in points, but also receive a huge boost to morale before the final few games of the 2018 league campaign.