Massive weekend of league and cup football ahead. Here's the main talking points;
1) Can Longford Town win the First Division?
It's a big weekend all round the league but we'll give top billing to the only team that can actually win something this week. Tony Cousins' inability to get Longford over the line the last couple of years has been pretty well discussed at this stage. Tonight they host Shamrock Rovers B knowing they realistically only need only 2 points from their last 2 games to clinch the First Division title and that all-important promotion. 2nd place Shelbourne host 3rd place Galway knowing anything less than a win hands the title to Longford too. Having beaten Rovers B 6-0 in the previous game in Longford, they won't falter this time. Longford will be First Division champions this evening.
2) Pats/Harps and the FAI Cup...
Many pundits tipped Pats as likely league winners at the start of the season but it hasn't really gone to plan for Liam Buckley's men. They're likely to achieve European qualification but this weekend see them play the biggest game of the season when they host Finn Harps in the FAI Ford Cup semi final. Everybody knows Pats' history with the FAI Cup (53 years, 7 final defeats since 1961) but despite all protestations from their fans, everyone knows they want this Cup more than anything. Finn Harps (who beat Pats in the 1974 final) will look to play spoiler but Pats have won 6 of the last games and at home should win comfortably. Not a single Pats fan will admit to ever feeling comfortable while Pats are in the Cup though.
3) Rovers/Derry and the FAI Cup...
Shamrock Rovers have won a record 24 FAI Cups. It really is incredible that they haven't added to that since 1987. Since then Derry City have won it 5 times (most of any club in that timeframe). Rovers have never beaten Derry in the FAI Cup (in fact neither Pats or Harps have beaten Derry in the Cup either...) This is definitely a meeting between former and current cup-specialists. On the field Derry are in awful form this season, losing 5 of their last 7 league games. Rovers are looking good at home under Pat Fenlon (yet to concede in Tallaght) so they're clearly the favourites on Sunday. Both these sides know that will count for little when the game kicks off though.
RTE 2 has a double header of live games on Sunday with Pats/Harps kicking off at 1.45pm, followed by Rovers/Derry at 3.55pm.
4) Can Cork keep up the pressure on Dundalk
With Dundalk idle this weekend, top billing goes to Cork City who host Drogheda United looking for a win to take them level on points with the leaders. Drogheda are in good form since the arrival of Damian Richardson and Darius Kearns but needing a win, Cork won't be too fearful. They haven't been scoring lots of goals recently but they're digging our results and continue to defy critics who have predicted they'd fall out of the title race. Another bumper crowd is expected tonight and the game is live on Setanta Sports with an 8pm kick off.
5) Can Athlone leapfrog UCD?
In UCD's last 10 league games they have 8 defeats and 2 draw. In Athlone's last 10 they have 3 defeats and 7 draws (including the last 6 games!). So neither side has a win but Athlone are clearly the team in better form. Tonight Athlone head to Limerick knowing another draw (or anything better) would see them off the bottom of the table. UCD travel to Sligo tomorrow. The sides could be level on points with only 3 games left. Bray Wanderers are idle and look safe in 10th.