A delayed start to week 26 of the Airtricity League due to last night's international but with only 7 games left, there's no doubting how crucial the games are. Here's what we're looking out for.
1) Can Drogheda dent Dundalk's title hopes in the biggest Louth Derby in years?
Dundalk went top briefly last weekend following Pats failure to beat Bohs. With Pats winning in Derry on Tuesday night, Dundalk are back in 2nd, 2 points off the leaders (who they travel to play next). Dundalk's 5 consecutive wins make them the form team in the league but they'll know tomorrow's game will be a huge test. Since losing in Europe, Drogheda are unbeaten in 8 themselves. The previous encounters this season saw Dundalk come back form 2- down to earn a point in Oriel before winning 1-0 in Drogheda so we know the game will be tight. A Dundalk win would ensure that they will go into the Pats game knowing a win there would put them top with 5 games to go. They're missing the excellent Kurtis Byrne through suspension and that could be key.
2) Can Pats win comfortably for a change?
Aside from the fluke 4-0 win over 9-man Shamrock Rovers, it's over 2 months since Pats won by more than a goal in the league. They've only scored once in their last 3 games. While tonight's game away to Limerick will be talked about as a tough tie by pats players and management, they'll know that if they're to win a league title, they should be win against a side who've lost their last 5 in league and cup. Pats have dominated large spells of the previous 3 games but nerves grew as they held on to that one goal lead (Bohs equalising late on). To answeer any questions about Pats stamina, they'd like to win by a couple of goals this evening.
3) Can Bray beat UCD to kick off their relegation fightback?
Bray have 3 draws and 7 defeats in their last 10 games since their remarkable 5-4 win over UCD in Belfield. In the same time UCD have won 11 points and now lead Bray by 5 points. A UCD win would leave them 8 points clear with only 7 to go, and with Bray's wretched form, UCD would be safe from the automatic relegation spot. Since winning Player of the Month for June, Jason Byrne has scored only once from open play and if Bray are to save themselves, his return to form will be key.
4) Can Bohs continue to pick up points against Sligo?
Bohs fans have enjoye the last 2 weeks more than most fans in the league. A 1-0 win over bitter rivals Shamrock Rovers was followed by a hard fought (and deserved) point away to title-chasing St Pats. Tonight they host Sligo Roers again thinking any point earned is probably a bonus. With Shels not playing and one of Bray/UCD guaranteed to lose points, a win for Bohs would be huge psychologically too. With the outstanding back game now played, Sligo find themselves in a bit of a no-man's land. They're 5 points off 2nd Dundalk and 5 points ahead of 4th place Derry,. European qualification should be certain but they'll need both Pats and Dundalk to falter if they're to get bace into the title race.
5) Will there be any fall out from the Derry v Shels postponement?
Yesterday saw the Republic of Ireland under 21s call up Derry City's Barry McNamee. Derry City approached the league and asked for their game against Shelbourne (due to be played tonight) to be called off. The FAI statement read "Derry City’s request for a postponement was granted after two of their players were called up for international duty last night. Michael Duffy received a call up to the Northern Ireland U21s while Barry McNamee was called up by the Republic of Ireland U21s". However Duffy was injured at the moment and hasn't played in a a couple of weeks. Shels are fuming. Not that the game was postponed, but because it was postponed about 24 hours before they were due to travel. From the outside looking in, it looks like Derry wanted a break following 4 successive home defeats.
Whatever happens, enjoy the games!