3 key battles in tonight's title decider between Dundalk and Cork City
It all comes down to this...
The destination of the League of Ireland title will be decided by 10 O'Clock this evening as league leaders Cork City travel to second placed Dundalk with the title up for grabs at Oriel Park.
A single point is all the separates the teams as the Rebels just need a draw to take the title back to Leeside for the first time since '05.
Dundalk's recent slip-ups against Shamrock Rovers and Bray Wanderers means that nothing else but a win will do for the Lillywhites.
It is not the first time that the sides have played each other on the last day of the season with the title at stake; the 1990/1991 season also went down to the wire with Dundalk taking the title at Turner’s Cross while Stephen Kenny will be hoping to avoid a repeat of '05 when his Derry City team lost the title to Cork on the final day.
Something has to give this evening as the Louth side have the best home record in the league while the Rebels are the best side on their travels in the country.
The match couldn't be better poised and it's an understatement to say that this has the potential to be one of the biggest matches in League of Ireland history.
We've decided to look at three key battles that could have a massive say in the outcome of the match and the ultimate destination of the title.
Daryl Horgan v John Kavanagh
In a cruel twist of faith, we wouldn't rule out the former Cork City winger Daryl Horgan being the match winner against his former side. The 22 year old has the ability, skill and pace to torment any defender especially since he is just as comfortable taking on a full-back on the inside as he is gong down the line.
The nominee for Young Player of the Year probably needs to add more goals to his game though, five in the league this season with the last coming against UCD in June, but he has the potential to win any match on his own.
Dundalk might need a bit of Horgan brilliance, they've only won 3 matches from their last 9, but he's more than capable of delivering.
The man tasked with keeping him quiet is John Kavanagh, who has become a cornerstone of the City defence since making the move up from the U-19.
The former Ringmahon Rangers player is exactly what's expected from a solid full-back. Good defensively, comfortable on the ball and willing to get forward. City have the best defence in the league and they'll need Kavanagh to be at his very best once again.
Richie Towell v Colin Healy
We can't wait to see this midfield battle between two extremely talented footballers at different ends of their career.
We're big fans of Towell because his passing, first touch and awareness of space separates him from other footballers in the league.
The Crumlin playmaker's goalscoring form has been absolutely top-notch this season also and the former Celtic and Hibs man has that unique ability to find pockets of space.
It always seems like he has more time on the ball than most, the sign of any good good player.
11 goals in the league is a wonderful return from midfield and he's already scored in both games against City this season. Cork have been warned.
The man who looks most likely to be made responsible for stifling Towell's creativity is the most experienced player in the Cork City squad and probably the league too.
Colin Healy's experience has been vital on Leeside since his return to Cork and it would be fitting to see the Ballincollig man get his hands on the league title.
His dramatic overhead kick against St. Patrick's Athletic could go down as one of the key-moments in this season also.
The 34 year old has excelled in his second spell at City after playing with Celtic, Sunderland, and Ipswich among others and his experience has really helped some of Cork's incredibly gifted younger players, like Gearoid Morrisey and Garry Buckley, kick on in their development.
We all know Healy's qualities; an excellent reader of the game, assured passer of the ball and a natural leader on the pitch. He'll be needed if Cork are to leave Louth with the title.
Another point worth noting, both of these lads have been nominated for player of the year which is just another brilliant foot-note in what's already an incredibly even match.
Andy Boyle v Mark O'Sullivan
Cork come into the game in flying form having won six games on the trot and conceding only two goals in the process.
The Leesiders aren't what you would call a free-scoring side but a large part for their resurgence has been the goals of Mark O'Sullivan as he and Billy Dennehy have carried the brunt of the goalscoring responsibility.
11 goals is a cracking return from the former Avondale striker who clearly has a great relationship with John Caulfield having followed him to the club in the summer.
The striker is in good form also having notched two in his last three against Sligo and Drogheda and he'll be hoping to cap off his first full year in top-flight football with a memorable performance against Dundalk.
O'Sullivan has been named in the PFAI Team of the Year but the man tasked with stopping him is also in the best XI too.
We're big fans of Dundalk defender Andy Boyle who has been a near ever-present for the Lillywhites. We've already tipped him for big things and a solid display on Friday will put him on the radar of even more scouts.
It's a commonly said cliche that the best team always wins the league and we'll all know who are the top dogs in irish football when the final whistle at Oriel Park blows.
Whatever you do, don't miss this match.