Full slate of games this weekend in the Airtricity League. Starting with Pats v Sligo tonight and ending with Bray v Limerick on Sunday. We pick out the most interesting storylines to follow.
1) Will Sligo Rovers set a new Premier League record of 9 wins to start season?
Sligo’s brilliant start to the season kicked off with a win in the Brandywell over Derry City. Tonight in front of RTE’s live TV cameras (7.05pm, RTE 2), they play the team they beat to clinch the 2012 title (below); St Patrick’s Athletic. That game was widely acknowledged as one of the games of the season and recently all games between the sides have been close affairs. The previous 5 games had seen Pats win by a goal twice and three draws. Sligo’s only win in Richmond Park in the summer football era came in 2009 when Raff Cretaro scored twice. While Anthony Elding’s goals deservedly earned him the POTM award for March, Cretaro’s performances have rightly been lauded this season. Pats have yet to draw this season and they’ll be hoping that Chris Forrester’s hat trick on Tuesday ignites the rest of team’s goal scoring boots. If Sligo do manage to win, they can already dismiss Pats as rivals.
2) Who’ll win the battle of the contenders in the Brandywell?
The League’s top scorers Derry City face unbeaten Shamrock Rovers in Derry this evening. After last week’s 7-0 thumping of Bray Wanderers, it was back to normal for Rovers on Tuesday with a draw at home to Cork City. Rovers have drawn all 4 of their away games this year with scoreless ties with Bohs, Shels and Dundalk to add to a 1-1 draw in Limerick. Derry meanwhile have only played 2 of the top 8 sides at home this year; drawing with Drogheda and losing to Sligo. The stats suggest another draw could be on the cards here but, like Pats, if Rovers lose and Sligo win, they’re already out of the league race.
3) Will the bottom 4 teams struggle again?
So far this season Shamrock Rovers are the only top 8 side to drop points to any of the bottom 4 teams with those scoreless draws away to Bohs & Shels. After that its 20 losses for Bohs, Bray, Shels & UCD with a combined goal difference of -53. This weekend seems the teams in 5th to 8th play the bottom 4 so for some it’ll be a chance to pick up much-needed points.
4) Who’ll win “El Clasico”?
First Division leaders Longford Town face local rivals Athlone Town in the derby both sides have adopted as “El Classico”. It’ll be Roddy Collins’ first taste of the Midlands’ derby but he’ll be confident of a positive result after last week’s much-needed win over Finn Harps. Longford’s win in Wexford last week gave them a 4 point cushion over the chasing pack so a win here could see that gap widen.
5) Will referees become under more pressure or will managers take responsibility for discipline?
Each week now on RTE's excellent MNS show, each losing manager mentioned 1 or 2 decision that didn't go their way. Some, as in the case of Derry's Shane McEleney, may have a case but many have no one to blame but themselves. There has been 15 red cards in the 46 Premier Division games played so far (averaging nearly a sending off every 3 games). Limerick, UCD and Shels have 3 sending offs each. Bohemians, on the other hand, have reaped rewards for being one of 4 sides yet to have a man sent off. They've played against a team that ended up with 10 men 4 times and have picked up their only 7 points of the season in these games. They've pointless in the 3 games they have faced a full team.
Whatever happens, enjoy the games!