1. Saints and Candystripes to clash
WHILE THERE ARE several interesting games this weekend, the meeting of St Patrick’s Athletic and Derry City at Richmond Park is perhaps the most intriguing.
Both suffered shock defeats to first division opposition last weekend, with St Pat’s losing to Cork City in the last eight of the EA Sports Cup, while Derry were shocked by Wexford Youths’ incredible 4-1 win in the FAI Cup seven days ago.
How they react will be a strong indicator of the mentality in both camps, and with both sides tied in third and three points off the top, a vital game to deciding if they are big challenger to Shamrock Rovers’ crown.
2. Big showdown in Wee County
Dundalk and Drogheda United meet in another Louth derby and while Lilywhites boss Ian Foster is playing down the heavy favourites tag bestowed upon the home team, it’s hard to imagine anything other than a win for the Oriel Park outfit.
Drogs, still with just one win all season, must be eternally grateful that, somehow, Galway United have suffered an even worse run of form. It means they actually have a very good chance of maintaining their premier status, though the next meeting between the bottom two will go a hell of a long way to deciding who faces the dreaded relegation play-off.
For Dundalk a win is of vital importance if they want to keep their possibility of challenging for the league alive, while on a quick glance it looks like they are way off the pace in sixth position, they are actually just six points off the top. Although it’s a local derby, three points are imperative for the Lilywhites.
3. Which Bohs will show up?
To say Bohemians have been a mixed bag lately is an understatement. On the form table their last six games in all competitions reads: LWLWLW. So going on that as gospel, you would say Pat Fenlon’s men are bound to be defeated by Sligo Rovers at Dalymount Park tonight.
If only it was as easy to predict as that. Nonetheless, Bohs form at home has been very poor compared to their performances on the road and after four defeats in eight games at the Phibsboro venue, an improvement will be necessary.
In contrast, they have been defeated jsut once on the road, away to Shamrock Rovers two weeks ago.
Sligo have been steady on their travels, winning three and drawing two of their eight games away from The Showgrounds to date. Despite a tame start to the season Paul Cook’s side are where pundits predicted them to be: hot on the tails of Shamrock Rovers in second position.
Expect it to be tight tonight, though.
4. Can Galway end long losing streak?
It is crazy to think that a team that hasn’t picked up a single point in over two months can still be just a point away from moving off bottom spot. That’s the position Galway United, who have lost every game since 8 April are in.
Still, there must be a degree of pity for their supporters because having to endure a losing streak that has lasted 11 games must test the patience of even the most diehard fan. Their only hope is that they strengthen considerably in July, and Drogheda fail to do so.
Bray Wanderers should make the journey back from the west with another three points in the bank. It’ll be a big shock otherwise.
5. First Division continues to enthral
While it’s anybody’s guess who will win the Premier Division, the second tier is equally as interesting, with four teams harbouring certain hopes of finishing top and earning promotion.
Shelbourne and Cork City remain the big favourites, but Monaghan United and a defensively mean Limerick also have legitimate claims in the quest for a top two finish.
Current leaders Shels face Mervue United tonight, while Cork City, the only unbeaten team in the country, host Athlone at home. Saturday, meanwhile, sees Monaghan travel to Salthill, while Limerick face a difficult trip to the midlands and Longford Town.
Keep your eyes on this division too, because it’s going to be exciting right up until the end.