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5 Things To Look Out For In Week 17 Of The Airtricity League

5 Things To Look Out For In Week 17 Of The Airtricity League
By John Dodge Updated

With last night's European games having kicked off the weekend early (In case you haven't seen it, check out Ger O'Brien's brilliant equaliser for Pats last night in Lithuania!), the focus shifts to Airtricity League action and here's what we're looking out for;

1) Can Derry City go back to the top of the table?

Patterson has missed the last 2 games through suspension - Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

With St Pats having already played their scheduled game for this week a month ago, Derry have the chance to draw level with them on points.  If they win by 4 goals, they'll also go top of the table.  In their way stands a Dundalk side hoping to bounce back from last week's shock 3-2 defeat in Limerick.  With the league's leading scorer, Rory Patterson, returning after suspension, Derry will be confident they can score.  It's in defence where they may have an issue as they haven't kept a clean sheet in the last 5 home games and Dundalk have scored in all but one away game. Goals are nearly guaranteed.

2) Can Sligo pile pressure on St Pats and Tommy Dunne?

In tonight's game live on Setanta Sports, Sligo Rovers can move to within a point of leaders St Pats ahead of their clash next Sunday.  If they do earn their 3rd consecutive win, they'll be piling pressure on Cork City manager Tommy Dunne.  In their last home league game Cork beat Drogheda (with a Daryl Horgan wondergoal) and that stopped a run of 5 home defeats.  Since then Cork have lost 3-0 to UCD (who had conceded 5 in their previous 3 games) and Drogheda (who had lost 5 in a row). Rovers will hope that their increased fire power with the signing of David McMillan will be enough to keep them in the hunt for a second title.

3) Can Eamon Zayed fire Shamrock Rovers back into the title race?

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Dublin-born Zayed has played in Norway, Iran and now with the Libyan national team - Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Rovers are 12 points behind Pats and in 5th place but they've added considerably to their the squad with the capture of former Bray man Eamon Zayed.  While Rovers await his international clearance, they'll surely be hoping he can score more than their top scoring striker (Karl Sheppard with only 2).  Bray's great run has quickly been halted with successive defeats to Derry and Pats. They'll need rumoured Rovers target Jason Byrne at his best to get anything from tonight's game.

4) Can Drogheda recover from their Europa League efforts?

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Drogheda have now played 15 games in Europe with 5 wins, 5 draws and 5 losses - : Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Drogheda have lost their last 5 league games as they slipped into a potential relegation battle.  Signs of life this week as they beat Cork 3-0 with a makeshift side in the EA Sports Cup and then last night they battled to a great draw against Sweden's Malmo in the Europa League.  They'll clearly be tired after their efforts but they can't afford to lose to a Shels side that's bottom of the table by 5 points. John McDonnell has added a number of players from intermediate football, including ex-Pats man Derek Doyle, but it remains to be seen if they can have a positive impact.

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5) Will the First Division promotion batlle look any clearer?

The top 4 in the First Division meet this week with leaders Longford hosting a Waterford side that have won their last 4 games.  2nd place Athlone travel to 4th place Wexford knowing a win, combined with a Longford loss, could see only a point split the sides.  The top 3 have all been busy looking to strengthen their squads for the run-in.

Whatever happens, enjoy the games!

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