O'Neill keeping focus on UCD as Bohs clash looms
SHAMROCK ROVERS head to Belfield this evening with the intention of preserving the status quo before Tuesday's showdown with arch enemies and title rivals, Bohemians.
Michael O'Neill's Hoops are six points clear at the top of the table with five games remaining. They travel to UCD this evening, while Bohs host Bray.
Both sides are expected to win, which would mean that a positive result for Rovers on Tuesday would give them the chance to take the title against Sporting Fingal in Tallaght eight days from now.
Heady days indeed but, true to the traditions of football speak, O'Neill and his dressing-room are preaching the 'one game at a time' mantra.
So, it's all about UCD for now. A talented UCD side who are fighting to avoid dropping into the relegation play-off places. Their promising start to the campaign tapered off somewhat, yet they possess enough capable individuals in their ranks to give their visitors a hard time.
"We won twice in a week at UCD earlier in the season, in the league and the EA Sports Cup. But they were both very tight games," admits O'Neill.
"And I don't envisage it being any different here. We might have our own aims -- however, UCD are fighting for their place in the division. They will be well up for the game."
Of course, the main pressure is with Rovers, but O'Neill is content with the manner in which his player responded to their humiliating reverse in Dundalk over a fortnight ago.
They bounced back to score nine goals in two games against Galway, settling any nerves which might have arisen from an unusual night in Louth.
"Our performances were very good," said O'Neill. "And we'll be looking to repeat that and get the three points."
Across town, Bohs should have the ability to see off the challenge of an improving Bray side.
They met at Dalymount in the cup a fortnight ago, a game which resulted in a comfortable victory for the Gypsies.
Nevertheless, Pat Fenlon expects this will be a 'much tougher game,' considering that Bray are fighting for their lives, although they have opened a five-point gap between themselves and bottom club Drogheda United.
Fenlon is under no illusions about the task facing his side, acknowledging that the next week will define their league season.
"We have to win our next three games to stay in the hunt," he says. "This is a big week for the team, with matches coming up against Rovers and Pat's. But this is what the players want, matches coming quickly one after the other.
"We played well on the night of the cup match, but Bray are scrapping for every point and they have been on a great run."