The final night of a topsy-turvy season takes place on Friday with Dundalk hoping to be in the mix for European qualification when everything is said and done.
The Lilywhites travel to relegated UCD with an outside chance of finishing fourth – and possibly banking a European spot next season.
To do so, Stephen O’Donnell’s men need to beat the Students and hope that Louth neighbours Drogheda United can take points off Shelbourne at Weaver’s Park.
A Dundalk win, coupled with a Drogs victory, would see the Lilywhites overtake Shels. If the game in Drogheda ends in a draw, Dundalk need to win by four clear goals in Belfield.
Even if that combination of events does transpire, Dundalk will also need St Patrick’s Athletic to beat sixth-placed Bohemians in the FAI Cup final on November 12th to secure their passage to the UEFA Conference League qualifiers next summer.
One of the other permutations of the final night is the possibility of Bohemians pipping both Dundalk and Shelbourne to fourth if they drop points in their respective matches – and the Gypsies claim a big win at home to Cork City.
Ryan O’Kane, who scored one of Dundalk’s goals of the season in the 2-0 win over UCD at the Bowl back in May, knows that the odds are stacked against the Lilwyhites but he said they were determined to sign off on a high.
“Obviously, there are other deciding factors at play but all we can do is go up there, try and win the game, and try and get as many goals as we can,” he said. “If we do that, anything can happen.”
Dundalk’s season looked to be dead and buried when they slipped to a 1-0 defeat against Shelbourne four weeks ago but O’Donnell’s men have recovered with consecutive 2-0 wins over Bohemians and Sligo Rovers to give themselves a fighting chance.
“We’ve taken quite a few hard hits this season but we’re still in there with something to play for and I think it shows our resilience,” said O’Kane.
“If we win on Friday night, it’ll be five wins out of six which is a good response to the Galway, St Pat’s and Shelbourne games which were a real kick in the teeth.
“I think most people probably would have thought we were done and that we’d put the feet up but we’ve stuck at it and we’ve dug in and we’re looking to finish off on a high because you never know what will happen.”
Team News: Louie Annesley and John Mountney are both missing but John Martin is back in contention after missing the last two games with a back injury.