COBH Ramblers will be keen to build on their excellent home win over Alan Mathews’ Longford Town last weekend when they confront another of their promotion rivals in Shelbourne at Tolka Park this evening (7.45pm).
Cobh are joint second with UCD in the First Division table on 17 points apiece and a solitary point behind the leaders Waterford United after nine series of matches and Stephen Henderson’s boys will be looking to keep the pressure on the Airtricity League leaders.
Ramblers go into tonight’s away game in the capital on the back of an impressive win over Longford where goals from Kyle McNamara and Chalie Fleming won the Rams the three points.
“Listen to be a point off top at this stage of the season is absolutely fantastic from my lads. But we won't get carried away. There's a lot of hard work to do between now and the end of the season.
We deserve to be where we are and if one or two results had gone our way like the home game with Shels’ when they equalised with the last kick of the game, then we’d probably be top on our own,” said Henderson on the eve of the game.
"But you can see the confidence building. And, if the squad believe it, we could be on another fairytale run this season. We have the talent in the squad but we have run into a few injury problems recently and we've had James McSweeney called into the Ireland U18 squad.
"It’s great recognition for the club but we miss him in the back four,” said Henderson, who will be missing his Burnley target again tonight.
Shelbourne, joint third with Cabinteely on 12 points each, are one of the promotion fancies this season and Henderson is well aware of just how tough a place Tolka Park is to go and play.
"It's never easy up there, no. The pitch up there is lovely, though. And we play well on good pitches. We're well able to pass the ball around. We'll go up there and we'll test ourselves, and if we pass the ball and play well anything can happen. We are in good form and we are all looking forward to it.
"Our players want to be tested, and we as a management team want to see them come on. That's why we love playing the Waterfords and the Shelbournes of this league - they're good teams with experienced players and it all part of a learning curve for our lads,” he added.
"We want to see how far our lads have come. And so far every time they've been asked a question, they've been able to answer it. I am expecting a close, exciting game of football between two sides who like to get it down and play a bit of ball,” he concluded.
On the injury front, Cobh are missing centre-half Ryan Hogan with a knee injury while fellow defender Ben O'Riordan remains a doubt as he continues his recovery from a concussion.
As mentioned, James McSweeney is absent due to international duties with the Ireland U18 squad in Slovakia.
The young centre half played the entire game as Ireland drew with Russia in the Slovakia Cup on Monday, and Henderson is predicting big things for him.
"Last week against Waterford, James was tested against Mark O'Sullivan, who I consider to be one of the best strikers in the country in either division. And he was fantastic. He really stood up and played well against him. I think his performance caught the eye of the Ireland management team on the night. And there's a few more here who if they believe in themselves and play well, they'll get rewards like that too,” added Hendo who has no suspensions to worry about this weekend.
Cobh have a Munster Senior Cup semi-final away to Wilton United on Monday (2pm) at Pat Bowdren Park on the Lee Road and their home league game with Cabinteely will now go ahead on Friday, May 12 at St Colman's Park to avoid a clash with the Intermediate Cup final and Cobh Wanderers date with destiny and Liffey Wanderers at the Aviva Stadium on May 13 with a 3pm start.