1. Early top-of-the-table clash
IT IS FAR too early in the season to be talking about the title race but, nonetheless, tomorrow night sees the teams sitting joint top of the table meet at Turner’s Cross.
Both with three wins and a draw, Cork City and Shamrock Rovers put their unbeaten league records on the line with all 12 Premier Division sides playing tonight and again on Monday.
The Rebels will be hoping for a crowd to match the 5,500 who showed up on the opening day of the season. John Caulfield’s arrival matched with their early form has certainly brought a degree of optimism back to Leeside.
Ryan Brennan’s early goal was enough to earn the Hoops a win over Sligo Rovers last week and they do look to be slowly finding their feet.
2. Pat’s need to start winning
Reigning champions St Patrick’s Athletic have only managed draws in their last two league outings but can feel slightly aggrieved after being denied penalties against Limerick and Derry.
They haven’t been terrible by any means but need to be more clinical in front of goal. A solid display in front of home fans and three points in the television game this evening (7.05pm) is what Liam Buckley will be hoping for.
Dundalk are a point above their hosts and have reason to be high on confidence after wins over Sligo and Shamrock Rovers as well as a draw with Bohemians in the past week.
3. Sligo and Derry must do better
You would have expected Sligo and Derry to have a better return than three point after the opening month but only Athlone and Limerick are below the pair heading into a meeting at the Brandywell.
2012 champions Sligo have undoubtedly underperformed in the league and have lost their last two games — to Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers.
Speaking to Ocean FM, defender Alan Keane says they plan to turn their form around.
There is a little bit of pressure on us going three games on the bounce with defeats,” he said. “We just have to roll our sleeves up now and work to the Derry game on Friday and no further than that.
4. High-scoring Students host Limerick
Last weekend, UCD and Bray played out an entertaining 5-3 with the Students coming out on top.
Aaron Callaghan’s men are the highest scorers this term (along with Shamrock Rovers on nine) but only Limerick have conceded more.
Contrastingly, Limerick have managed to find the back of the net twice and manager Stuart Taylor believes they will improve when the lengthy list of injured players return.
“It has been a slow start but we’ve had a lot of injuries, without going over old ground,” he told the club website. “We’ve had a few illnesses as well and they’ve all come at once. That’s probably what it’s down to at this moment in time.
“But everyone is coming back, slowly but surely. We’re keeping on the positive side of things; we’re starting to see the faces coming back on the pitch and we’re hoping we can go from strength to strength now.
5. First Division title contenders meet
In the second tier, Finn Harps and Shelbourne are locked together on eight points each and face off at Tolka Park.
They’re the only two unbeaten teams left in the First Division and Harps manager Ollie Horgan is well aware of the task at hand.
“Away in Tolka will be our biggest test so far this season,” Horgan said. “Not only is it an away game against a side the calibre of Shelbourne, but up in Dublin it will be very difficult.”
They travel without the services of strikes Kevin McHugh (hamstring), Sean McCarron (fractured cheek) and Ruairi Keating (suspended).
Shels manager Johnny McDonnell has a full squad to choose from with no injuries or suspensions.
SSE Airtricity League fixtures (all kick-offs Friday 7.45pm unless stated)
- St Patrick’s Athletic v Dundalk (7.05pm)
- Bohemian FC v Bray Wanderers
- Cork City v Shamrock Rovers
- Derry City v Sligo Rovers
- Drogheda United v Athlone Town
- UCD v Limerick
- Galway FC v Cobh Ramblers
- Shelbourne v Finn Harps
- Wexford Youths v Shamrock Rovers
- Longford Town v Waterford United (Saturday, 7.30pm)