In between European games for Sligo Rovers and Derry City their ties with Drogheda United and leaders St Patrick's Athletic have been postponed from this weekend's schedule. Plenty of intrigue as ever though with the Airtricity League.
1) Can Dundalk move to within a point at the top?
In tonight's live Setanta Sports TV game, Dundalk travel to Cork City knowing a win would move them to within a point of leaders St Pats. Dundalk have won 8 of their 10 away games this league season - including wins against the top 3 (St Pats, Sligo, Derry) - so a trip to an inconsistent Cork side shouldn't hold any fears for them. With the top 3 all idle, the league's spotlight will be on Dundalk for maybe the first time this year and that should provide a further challenge for Stephen Kenny's side. Cork City showed in their last home game, also televised, that they can raise their game and they'll be looking to inform Daryl Horgan to inspire them.
2) Can Shamrock Rovers continue their fight back?
In the 2nd series of games so far no team has won more points than Shamrock Rovers (21 from 27) and they'll hope to add to their 9 game unbeaten streak tonight against UCD. Last time these played UCD were bottom and stunned the league by beating Rovers 2-0 in Belfield. UCD now sit in 10th place and closer in points to 8th than 11th. They lost leading scorer Dave McMillan 2 weeks ago but even without him scoring goals hasn't been a problem. UCD's problems are in defence where they have conceded a league high 48. Shamrock Rovers attack needs all the help it can get. Even in their 9 game unbeaten run, they've only scored 11 goals and their 4 strikers have a combined total of 3 goals so far this league season. If Rovers have any hope of winning back the title, they can't afford to drop points tonight.
3) Can Shelbourne move off the bottom?
When Alan Mathews left the Shels manager's job he had earned 6 points in 14 games. His replacement John McDonnell has won 7 points in his last 4 games. McDonnell has added players from a variety of sources with Lee Murtagh and Lee Murphy joining from the LSL and AUL for their first taste of LOI football. If Shels win tonight and Bohs don't, they'll be off the foot of the table for the first time since early May. While Bray, UCD and Drogheda continue to pick up points, it's unlikely that Shels can reach 10th, but after losing 12 of the opening 16, their fans will surely take a play off place if offered now.
4) Can Owen Heary and his backroom staff revive Bohemians?
Bohs sacked manager Aaron Callaghan during the week after a run that saw Bohs pick up only 3 points in their last ten games. They have only scored once in the last 6 games. The Bohs board really had no option but to act, particularly as the change of manager worked for Shels (in the short term at least). Temporary manager Owen Heary is suspended for tonight's game away to Bray Wanderers so Graham O'Hanlon leads from the dug out. Defeat tonight would put Bohs 8 behind Bray and, as above, would open the door for Shels to move off the bottom. There's been no indication if Heary is manager until the end of the season, but whoever is in charge has a huge job saving Bohs from their first ever relegation
5) Can Longford continue their march towards the first division title?
With 11 games left in the first division, Longford Town lead Athlone Town by 4 and Waterford United by a further 5 points. It's highly unlikely they'll choke to such a degree that they won't even reach the play off. With David O'Sullivan continuing to attract interest from bigger clubs, his goals are crucial to Longford's hopes. Both Athlone and Longford have moved to strengthen in the break and if the leagues finished now, we'd have a promotion/relegation play off between Bohemians and Roddy Collin's Athlone. Who wouldn't watch that?
Whatever happens, enjoy the games!