The Easter weekend League of Ireland schedule kicked off last night in Dundalk as visitors Drogheda United threw away a two goal lead to draw 2-2. The weekend sees Premier Division teams play twice and is stretched until Tuesday. There's a total of 15 games left to play, so here's our pick of the weekend storylines.
1) Sligo Rovers get to show the country how good they really are
Sligo are champions and have won every game they've played this year but the vast majority of Irish football fans won't have watched them play this season. Sligo's opener in Derry clashed with bigger stories in Limerick and Dundalk and since then they've played the bottom 2 teams from last year and the promoted team. There's been little to attract the TV cameras or the leading football writers. Tonight's game in Dalymount between Bohs and Sligo is the first of 3 TV games in 4 weeks for Sligo so the nation is about to find out how good they are. New signings McMillen and Elding have slotted perfectly into Ian Baraclough's system and players like Cretaro and Lynch have been outstanding so far. If Sligo win tonight, and then in UCD on Monday, they'll more than likely be 5-6 points clear of the field already.
2) Will Pats get their season going?
St Pats entered last Easter off the back of disappointing draws away to Bohemians and Shelbourne. They played the then-champions Shamrock Rovers who had started the season with 4 wins and a draw. Pats blitzed Rovers 5-1 thanks in part to this memorable Chris Forrester highlight.
Pats last outing saw Rovers gain revenge with a 3-0 win and the 2 games scheduled for last week in Inchicore were both postponed. Those games against Bohs and Shels were eminently winnable and would've seen the Saints lie in second place in the table. As it is, they're 9 point behind Sligo and need to start winning. A trip to Limerick isn't ideal but if Pats can sort out the defensive errors from that Rovers game, they could kick off at Easter again.
3) Will Shamrock Rovers draw 0-0 again?
In most analysis of Shamrock Rovers season so far, the lack of goals has been prominent. Gifted three by pats, they've created little in the other three games and all three ended scoreless. The fact that Rovers haven't conceded a goal yet seems to have been missed. Last year, defensive errors cost Rovers in big games and they seem to have sorted those out. As you can see above when called upon Barry Murphy has been more than up to the job. They host Cork City tonight & travel to Limerick on Tuesday. Manager Trevor Croly will take another two clean sheets and let the goals look after themselves.
4) Can Derry City bring their away form home with them?
Last year Derry City won more points away than they did in the Brandywell. This year they've a point from 2 home games and have won both games away. With both Shelbourne and Bray Wanderers visiting Foyleside, Derry will be looking for 2 wins to add to the 007 points they've earned so far (now you get the poster...) and keep the pressure on the league leaders. Derry lost 8 times at home last season. If that repeats, they won't challenge this year.
5) UCD could end the week cut adrift at the bottom of the table already
Despite Gareth Matthews wonderful late free kick against Dundalk, UCD have lost all 4 of their opening games, conceding 13 goals in the process. They host unbeaten champions Sligo on Easter Monday so tonight's game away to Bray Wanderers is already reaching the must-win stage. Perhaps it's more correct to say the game is must-not-lose as a Bray win will see UCD already 6 points behind the team most pundits were predicting for relegation. Fellow relegation candidates Shelbourne picked up a moral boosting point at home to Shamrock Rovers last Sunday. If they pick up points against Bohs on Monday, and UCD lose twice this weekend, they're already in big trouble.
Whatever happens, enjoy the games.