GARETH MAHER - Friday, October 29, 2010
Ryan Guy goes into the final game of the Airtricity League Premier Division season with St. Patrick's Athletic hoping to secure a place in the Europa League qualifiers for next year.
Sligo Rovers - St. Patrick's Athletic
This will be the seventh time that St. Pat's have faced Sligo this season, but winning this game at Showgrounds means more than any that have gone before as European soccer is at stake.
Guy's men have endured a long season with many highs and lows, although losing in the final of the Setanta Sports Cup and reaching the semi-finals of the FAI Ford Cup will not be looked upon as progress if they fail to finish in the top four.
St. Pat's, Sligo and Sporting Fingal are all fighting for those last two places.
Sporting are at home to UCD, so there is little that head coach Pete Mahon can do about that other than hope his former club can produce an upset at Morton Stadium.
Simply put - St. Pat's must beat Sligo. That will be a difficult task as The Bit O'Red are unbeaten in their last 10 games in all competitions and already through to the FAI Ford Cup final, plus they have home advantage here.
But Guy knows that the Saints have developed a knack of fighting right to the end of every game and they will have to do exactly that one more time as they target a top-four finish.
The good news is that Mahon has a full roster of players to choose from, while Sligo are missing Richard Brush with a wrist injury and Mauro Almeida out with an achilles injury.
This should be a thrilling battle.
Shelbourne - Waterford
With this being the final game of the league campaign it is unlikely that Waterford coach Stephen Henderson will make many changes to his team for Saturday's trip to Tolka Park.
That suggests that Konopka will be out of luck yet again as his time on the bench is extended even further with Kevin Burns preferred as first-choice goalkeeper.
However, the New Jersey native could still celebrate promotion for the second year running after being part of Sporting Fingal's elevation to the Premier Division last season as The Blues remain in contention to go up.
Henderson's men sit in second place behind Derry City, who have a goal difference of plus nine, while Monaghan United and Shelbourne are also in the mix for the two promotion play-off spots.
If Waterford lose and Monaghan get a result against Derry then they will tumble out of the reckoning, but even a draw against Alan Mathews' team should be enough to give them a chance of returning to the top flight.
Blues striker Vinny Sullivan is forced to serve a suspension, so Henderson will have to shake things up slightly for what should be a gripping encounter.