10 games in an extended weekend for the Artricity League this weekend. Here's our picl of the storylines to follow.
1) Can St Patrick's Athletic maintain their great form?
St Pats are now unbeaten in 15 league and cup ties. They've won 9 and drawn 3 of the last 12 League games. They've won the last 6 games in all competitions. That's a fair few records they bring in today's game with Limerick in Inchicore. All records must end though, and Limerick have shown they can compete with every team in the division. They've only lost four games and each of those has been by only one goal. Last time out they helped Pats go top of the table by drawing with Sligo. Pats goal difference for the past 3 league games is 10-0, but they'll settle for another one goal win today.
2) Can Sligo Rovers get back to their free-scoring ways?
Until last time out, Sligo had scored at least twice in every home game. Sligo's falure to score against Dundalk in that home defeat was their third consecutive scoreless league game though. With Anthony Elding beginning a 4 game ban the return of Danny North could not have been timed better. The Engllish striker was top scorer in the league last year before his season ended through injury. A calander year later, he returned last week in the FAI Cuo to play the final few minutes. If Sligo can't score against a Bohs team that have lost 5 of their last 6 games and have only kept one cleansheet all season, manager Ian Baraclough will be asking serious questions of the Champions.
3) Will Dundalk push on from their excellent in in Sligo?
Dundalk beat Sligo Rovers away thanks to a long range volley from Dane Massey. They've also beaten league leaders St Pats away this season. In fact they've won 6 of 7 away from home with the only reverse being in tallaght against Shamrock Rovers. Their home form isn't as good though and at the moment they trail Pats by 9 points (albeit with a game in hand). If they're to kick on and make a sustained title challenge, they'll need to beat mid-table teams like Drogheda United. The Louth Derby was moved to Monday evening for live TV coverage by Setanta Sports and Drogheda would love nothign more than to pop their neighbour's bubble. The sides played out an entertaining 2-2 last time out and TV viewers will be hoping for a repeat.
4) Will Shamrock Rovers win away?
Rovers disappointing season is perhaps best illustrated by their away record where they have yet to win in 7 games. Only bottom club Shelbourne have less points from away games than Rovers this season. Rovers fans have questioned how Trevor Croly has sent out his team for away games. Whatever is at fault, it's pretty unacceptable that Rovers have only scored twice away all season. Cork's home form isn't great though and they've lost the last 3 games at Turner's Cross. Traditionally the visit of Rovers brings the Cork fans out and it would surprise nobody if they manage to get a positive result tomorrow.
5) Can UCD or Bray Wanderers take a huge step towards safety in their game?
Bray Wanderers have earned 10 points from the last 4 games (after 7 succesive defeats!). They travel to UCD in great spirits after Jason Byrne completed his hat-trick in injury time to beat Drogheda United last time out. UCD had a similar run of 10 points in 4 games before suffering back-to-back heavy defeats to St Pats in league and cup last week. The face each other tonight in Belfield knowing that the other teams in the bottom 4 (Bohemians and Shelbourne) face teams in the top 3. A win for either side could see them 11 points clear of Shelbourne as we approach the half way point. That's huge considering Shels have only 6 points all season.
Whatever happens, enjoy the games!