It's the biggest night in years in the League of Ireland. There's plenty at stakes for lots of clubs. But we all know what game you'll really be keeping an eye on tonight so we'll start our final preview of the season there;
1) The Title Decider
32 games each for Dundalk and Cork City and it comes down to the final game of the season. For TV viewers and casual fans, it can't get any better than tonight's showdown in Oriel Park. These 2 sides have been the top 2 from every early on. After the first series of games Cork led Dundalk by point. After the 2nd series of games, Dundalk led by 7 points! Cork's gret and determination has seen them claw their way back into the lead and they now stand 90 scoreless minutes away from winning their first title under the FORAS regime.
Dundalk have scored 20 more goals than Cork (conceding only one more) and played some awesome football this season. It will all count for nothing if they can't win tonight. It would leave Dundalk without a win in their last 3 games and, while they'll point to Cork's superb form down the stretch, that can only be descibed as a choke. Dundalk have probably the best player in the league in Richie Towell and enough firepower to cause Cork problems all night long so they will have chances tonight.
Cork have been underestimated all season. They know it won't be easy to enter a sold out Oriel Park and win the title. But winning the League of Ireland is never easy and anyone who manages it deserves their Championship medals. The best team always wins the league. Tonight we'll find out if that's Cork City or Dundalk.
2) The relegation spot
UCD lead Athlone by a point. UCD host Drogheda United (9th) while Athlone host Bray (10th). For Athlone to overtake UCD they need to better their result (ie if UCD lose, Athlone only need to draw). Athlone have been in slightly better form but both sides won last week (against the sides with their focus on next week's FAI Cup final). After starting the league season with 10 straight defeats, it will be some achievement by Athlone if they can manage it.
3) The Play Off
Galway beat Shelbourne 2-0 at home in the promotion play off first leg last week. They're attempting to become only the second side to finish in 3rd place and win promotion through the play offs. The last time it happened Shelbourne also finished second only to lose to Fingal in the play offs and see them win promotion. When the sides met in Tolka Park earlier this month, the game finished 1-1 so Shels know they have a huge job on their hands to stay in these play offs. The winner will play the 11th place Premier Division team next week.
4) Players saying goodbye
There's not much at stake for the rest of the league. Pats will probably wrap up 3rd and some mid-table teams will move positions (technically every club in the division could move position) but really most will be more interested in players saying goodbye to their current teams. With Sligo expected to announce Owen Heary as manager this weekend and several others entering their first off season as manager we could see many teams have a clear out.
5) Back slapping and hand-wringing
Tonight is a huge night for the SSE Airtricity League. A huge crowd in Dundalk at the game (including a big crowd from Cork). Incredible support for Cork and Dundalk from their local communities. It has been a hugely positive week and we don't have many of them. Expect to see plenty of "The LOI is alive and thriving" articles in the run up to next week's Cup final. You won't see too many mention that it was complete fluke to have the title decided this way and that none of the other games this evening will reach a quarter of the Oriel Park gate. Let's see if the positive press actually makes a difference to the league as a whole next season.
The Dundalk v Cork City game is live on RTE tonight with a 7.45pm kick off. We've looked back at the last league decider between the sides and also the last time either won the league on the last day (and no, winning the First Division isn't winning the league).
Whatever happens, enjoy the games!
(PS we'll have our LOI yearly awards next week and will keep covering the Greatest League in the World all throughout the off season)