Easter weekend is always a busy time for LOI footballers with games on Good Friday and Easter Monday. Here's what we're looking out for in week 7 of the SSE Airtricity League
1) Will a football game interrupt the water fight in Dundalk?
Tuesday night Dundalk beat an under strength Shamrock Rovers to confirm their place in the Setanta Cup final. The football was barely mentioned in post-game coverage as Dundalk's decision to only water the goal area they are attacking drew the ire of Rovers coaching staff. It has been Dundalk's practice for a while now but Rovers GK coach Tim Dalton took exception to it on Tuesday. The teams meet again this evening with Dundalk looking to extend their lead at the top of the league table. A win for Rovers would bring them level with Dundalk but they're missing some key players and may give a premier Division debut to 18 year old left back Sean Heaney. If Rovers lose, it would be their 5th defeat in 7 games, with 3 of those defeats being to Dundalk.
2) Will the real St Patrick's Athletic please stand up?
Pats host cross-city rivals Bohemians tonight looking for their 3rd straight league win. With the other top four playing each other a win would see them into the top 3 and their league title defence would be back on track. Either side of those 2 league wins, the champions lost 4-1 to Dundalk (league) and 5-1 to Sligo Rovers (Setanta Cup). While they can try and dismiss the Sligo game as a defeat for an "experimental" selection, there's no doubt that in both games Pats defensive weakness was badly exposed. Bohs mightn't pose the same attacking threat but in Jason Byrne they have a man very capable of punishing any mistakes. Games between these sides are usually tight and a mistake could decide it.
3) Will Cork City get back to winning ways?
2nd plays 4th tonight in Turners Cross with Cork City hosting Drogheda United. Last week it took a 93rd minute penalty, converted by Billy Dennehy, to keep Cork's unbeaten streak alive. After Drogheda's surprise loss at home to Bray last Friday, Cork are now the only unbeaten side left. Cork's attacking options are being stretched to the limit with injuries to Morrissey, Rafter and Elding while Drogheda possess arguably the league's most in form striker partnership in O'Brien and O'Neill. Another big crowd is expected and any winner in thise tie between 2 sides that have out-performed expectations could go a long way to legitimizing their title challenge.
4) Will Sligo Rovers get back to winning ways?
It's pretty unbelievable that Sligo Rovers have not won a league game since the opening day of the season (and that was a 2-1 win over Athlone Town who have yet to earn a point). They stopped a run of defeats last week in Cork and very early got that all important win but they remain 2nd bottom in the league and still without a league goal from a recognized striker. On Monday they destroyed Pats in the Setanta Cup and they'll be looking to make that a springboard to leap up the league table. Tonight they host UCD, who have defensive problems again this season, so Sligo have the perfect game to get scoring again.
5) Will Athlone Town pick up their first point?
7 games, 7 defeats. That's been Athlone Town's season so far as the midlanders stuggle to adapt to their first Premier Division season in 17 years. Tonight they travel to Thomond Park to play Limerick who have their own struggles. They won their first game last week (away to Bohs) but they've yet to score a goal at home this season. After tonight Athlone's next 2 games are Dundalk at home and away to Pats. If they don't win tonight they could be looking at 10 straight defeats to start a season.
There's plenty of action around the country tonight with Bray hosting Derry the other game in the Premier Division. In the First Division leaders Shelbourne host Cobh Ramblers, struggling (sleeping giant) Waterford United host Shamrock Rovers B and the youngest two clubs in the league Wexford Youths and Galway FC meet. You won't get better entertainment this side of the pub...
Whatever happens, enjoy the games!