Dundalk can reclaim the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division title in everything but name should they pick up three more points against Derry City at Oriel Park on Tuesday night (kick-off 8pm).
The Lilywhites come into this match knowing that a potential 16th win from their previous 17 league fixtures would all but seal the club’s 13th League of Ireland championship and fourth in five years.
Three points in their game in hand against Derry would put Stephen Kenny’s side 12 points clear of second-placed Cork City with just four matches left to play and a vastly superior goal difference.
This comes after the champions-elect recorded their first win against Cork at Turners Cross in over three years after Chris Shields’ early deflected strike turned out to be decisive goal on Friday night.
“I had never won at Turners Cross with any team,” said midfielder Robbie Benson in the aftermath of that crucial victory.
“I have been in so many dressing rooms down there after being defeated so it was a brilliant feeling to go back into such a jovial dressing room in Cork,”
“It was an important win for us. It was one that we needed. We wanted to get the three points and we got them so we are pleased with that.
“In terms of the league we are nearly there now. We are close to it but there’s still work to do. We have to finish it off. We have a nine-point gap, which is great, but we still have to get over the line.
“If you look back at the Cork City matches over the year, we have won three out of the four and that is our nine-point gap so that is where it could have been claimed and shows the importance of those matches.
“It’s going to be another difficult game for us against Derry City tomorrow evening. They have had a lot of games recently. They won the EA Sports Cup last week so that was good for them.
“They are a really good side and they can pass the ball as well as anyone in the league. They came here earlier in the season and it finished in a 2-2 draw. That game could have went either way that night.
“We have dropped points up there before so they are a team that we will make sure that we are 100% focused on because if we are not they will turn us over.”
It was confirmed last week that midfielder Karolis Chvedukas would miss the remainder of the campaign due to an ankle injury, while Stephen O’Donnell continues his recovery from a broken leg.
Although they were recently crowned EA Sports Cup winners, Derry haven’t recorded a league win since July, losing four matches in a row which has seen them drop to seventh in the table.
That wretched form was compounded by elimination from the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup at the hands of Bohemians last Wednesday night before Shamrock Rovers inflicted another defeat on Saturday.
“How am I under pressure? I've just won a trophy,” Kenny Shiels told BBC Radio Foyle.
“The first one in six years. We've ridden the storm through a very difficult season. We've stayed in and around the top six the whole season so I don't think we're under pressure.
“On Saturday against Shamrock Rovers, the boys gave a brilliant shift with six under-21 internationals in the team.
“We're trying to rebuild again and people need to see what we are trying to achieve here at this club.”
Derry could still finish in the top half of the table with five matches to go and manager Shiels will be anxious to finish in fifth.
Waterford, who currently occupy fourth position, face the possibility of being denied entry into the Europa League due to UEFA regulations regarding ‘newly formed’ clubs.
“We've lost a lot of games but it's only natural that will happen in a transitional period. I'm delighted at how we're shaping up. The improvement you can see is there,” added Shiels
“In the last three games we have been magnificent so let's take it on from there and not worry too much about Dundalk.”
The Candystripes have no fresh injury worries ahead of their trip to Dundalk with English defender Dan Seaborne, who missed the defeat to Rovers at the Brandywell, the only definite absentee.
Derry City haven’t recorded a win of any kind at Oriel Park since April 2013, when two Rory Patterson penalties along with a Barry McNamee goal sealed a 3-1 victory for the Candystripes.
A goal from Patrick Hoban would be his 25th of the season in the league, which would equal Richie Towell’s club record for goals in a single campaign that was set in 2015.
It would also put the Loughrea native just ten goals behind the club’s overall record league goalscorer Joey Donnelly, who scored 69 times in the League of Ireland between 1929 and 1943.
Dundalk 1/5; Draw 11/2; Derry City 11/1
Dundalk 3-1 Derry City
Injured: Karolis Chvedukas, Stephen O’Donnell.
Injured: Dan Seaborne.