A quieter weekend this weekend for League of Ireland clubs with only one round of fixtures over today and tomorrow. Here's our big of the storylines to look out for.
1) By how many goals will Sligo Rovers beat Shelbourne?
Sligo have played 6, won 6 and have a goal difference of plus 13. Shels have played 5, lost 4, drew 1 and have a goal difference of minus 8. Shels two away games have seen them lose 1-0 to Bray (who have only picked up one more point elsewhere) and 4-0 to Derry City last week. Shels have scored one goal so far. Sligo have four players who have scored more than that, including 6 in 6 games for Anthony Elding and 3 in last two for Aaron Greene (including the cracker above). The last time the sides met in Sligo, the home side won 3-0. Sligo have improved and Shels have got much worse. When Shels picked up their solitary point of the season, young goalkeeper Niall Burdon picked up man of the match award from RTE. If he keeps a clean sheet tomorrow, he'll likely need the performance of his life.
2) Can Derry City maintain good form in Dalymount Park?
3 consecutive wins to nil for Derry. it would've been 5 only for a late Drogheda equaliser in the Brandywell 2weeks ago. Rory Paterson (above) and Michael Rafter are scoring goals and Derry have certainly recovered from opening day defeat to Sligo. In our pre-season preview, one of our 20 questions was "Will Derry City build on cup success?". The answer seems to be yes. Tonight they face Bohemians in front of the live TV cameras. Bohs picked up their second win last week against Shels and have already put distance between them and the struggling UCD and Shels teams. Tonight is a far tougher test for them.
3) How obvious is a draw between Shamrock Rovers and Drogheda United tonight?
Rovers have drawn 5 of 6, Drogheda have drawn 4 of 6. They've both drawn with Limerick, Cork and Dundalk. Rovers run of clean sheets ended last weekend as they drew 1-1 with Cork, then Limerick. Drogheda, meanhwhile, have scored 8 and conceded 8. So why do bookmakers consider Shamrock Rovers such big favourites? It's because most pundits are waiting on Rovers to explode into life. With the league's biggest budget and the pre-season captures of important players from their rivals, they really should have more than one win in six. The same people were left waiting for the same thing last season too.
4) Will we see a top 6/bottom 6 split in the Premier division?
From Dundalk in 3rd to Pats in 8th there are 5 points seperating teams (with Pats having 2 games in hand on most). With Cork playing bottom side UCD at home, they should pick up 3 points. Teams like Limerick, Pats, Rovers and Drogheda will need to pick up wins to try and keep pass wth Derry and Dundalk, never mind leaders Sligo. If Pats fail to win in Bray (they drew 3-3 last year), there will be even more unrest in the Pats faithful after the manner of recent defeats to Rovers and Dundalk.
5) Watch how much attention Longford and the First Division gets this week?
This column is as guilty as every other media outlet, but the First Division in the LOI gets scant coverage nationally. That will probably change after the midweek news of an investigation surrounding gambling on Longford Town games. Tomorrow night sees top of the table Longford host surprise second place team Mervue United in what I'm now calling the CC-siro (in a desperate attempt to hang on to the memory of the Flansiro). You don't have to be a media insider to know that Longford will have more requests than usual for media access. Let's hope the media who turn up are treated to a good game as they wait on the facts to come out.
Whatever happens, enjoy the games.