Last weekend of fixtures before the mid-season break and the results will show how the Airtricity League is shaping up as we enter enter the second half of the season.
1) Can St Pats keep their run(s) going in Dundalk?
Heading into tonight’s game in Oriel Park, Pats are defending a lot of impressive streaks. They (i) are unbeaten in 13 league games, (ii) have won the last 7 away league games, (iii) are unbeaten in Dundalk since 1998, (iv) have won the last 7 games in all competitions and (v) haven’t conceded a league goal in 5 games. Killian Brennan was awarded the SWAI/Airtricity Player of the Month award yesterday and Pats players were 4 of the top 5 vote-getters. So, clearly all is set up for Dundalk to repeat their win in Inchicore earlier this season. If they do, and again, they’re due, then they’ll be right in the title hunt only 6 behind Pats with a game in hand. Dundalk’s home form isn’t as impressive as their away form (2 wins compared to 7) but Stephen Kenny will be looking to improve that, starting tonight.
2) How many goals will the League’s two most in-form strikers score in Bray v Derry?
Derry City’s Rory Patterson has been the most impressive striker in the League this season. The Northern Ireland international has 12 goals in the league and unlike everyone else, hasn’t gone three games without a goal. Jason Byrne, despite what Pat Morley thinks, scored his 202nd all time LOI goals last week on the way to scoring 4 just a week after another hat-trick. Tonight they face off as in-form Bray Wanderers (4 wins and a draw with Sligo in last 5 games) host second placed Derry City. With 39 goals in the last 10 combined games for these sides, goals are definitely on the cards
3) Will Sligo score?
They have to, right? UCD have conceded 5 in each of their last 2 league games. They’ve conceded 23 in 9 away games and haven’t conceded le4) ss than 2 in all of them. Tomorrow night they travel to Sligo Rovers to face a side that hasn’t scored in any of its last 4 games. A remarkable stat for any team, never mind for the champions who started the league season with 8 wins. They’ve only won once since though and now sit in 3rd place, 7 points behind St Pats (albeit with a game in hand). Danny North played nearly 20 minutes last week but it remains to be seen if he’s fit enough to start. Whoever starts for Sligo should be confident that they’ll at least get chances to score this time.
4) Tonight’s Bohs/Shels game may be the “Dublin Decider” of who’s relegated
Shelbourne are currently 8 points behind UCD and Bohemians at the foot of the Premier Division. A loss tonight to Bohs would almost certainly mean, even at the half way stage, they won’t be able to catch team. While 11 points may only be 4 wins, the fact Shels have 1 all season should tell that story. There is light for Shels tonight though. Bohs have only picked up 2 points in the second series so far (Shels have none!) and have the league’s second worst home record. For Shels to have any chance of survival they need goals quickly. After 16 games, they have yet to have a player score more than once this season. The previously reliable Philly Hughes has none.
5) Will Shamrock Rovers continue their quiet revival at home to Limerick?
Rovers are now up to 5th place and have 3 wins, 3 draws in last 6 games. Of course their ‘revival’ has been anything but quiet but media attention will always focus of big clubs clearly underperforming. Tonight they host a Limerick side who haven’t won in 4 and smarting from a 3 goal defeat to Pats last week. Limerick had previously been competitive in each game and with former Hoop Barry Ryan outstanding in goal all season, manager Stuart Taylor will be hoping that Limerick can keep it tight in Tallaght. Rovers win in Cork was the first time in 8 that they had scored 2 and they haven’t conceded 2 in 18 league games so Taylor may get his wish
Whatever happens, enjoy the games!