14 games left for the Premier Division and, like the weather, things are hotting up. Here's our take-aways from the weekend's actions.
1) Pats were the big winners of the weekend
On Thursday Pats played in Lithuania gaining a creditable 2-2 draw to bring into this week's 2nd leg against Zalgiris. Friday was even better for Liam Buckley's men as nearest challenger Derry City and Sligo Rovers both lost to leave Pats 3 and 4 points ahead with 14 games to go. Pats had already played their scheduled game so could enjoy the weekend knowing that they have 2 huge tests in the next fortnight as they travel to both Sligo and Derry.
2) Dundalk just can't be shaken
Dundalk have not beaten the top 3 sides away from home and lie 6 points behing Pats. With games coming up against Bohs, Cork and Bray, they could easily be right back into the title race as the top 3 take points of each other. In fact if Dundalk didn't blow a 2 goal lead in Limerick 2 weeks ago, they'd be level with Derry in 2nd. Unlike the rest of the top 5, Dundalk haven't yet added to their squad in the transfer window.
3) Sligo Rovers just aren't clicking
It's incredible to think that Sligo started the season in such scintilating fashion with 8 consecutive wins. Since then they've only won 3 times in 11 games (each club once) and Friday's loss to Cork City was their 3rd defeat. This time it was (uncharachteristic) defensive lapses allowed former player Daryl Horgan punish them. The next week will tell a lot about the side's resolve as they host Pats on Sunday before hosting Molde in the Champions League the following Wednesday. 2 positive results there could set thier season back on track pretty sharpish.
4) Shamrock Rovers desperately need Eamon Zayed to work.
Eamon Zayed's international clearance didn't arrive in time so he had to sit out Rovers' 5th scoreless draw of the season in Bray. With Rovers apparently seeking to sign Bray's Jason Byrne it seems clear that manager Trevor Croly is anxious to beef up a strikeforce that has scored a combined 3 goals all season (2 for Sheppard, 1 for Quigley, 0 for Stewart). After letting Cairan Kilduff go on loan to Cork (and see him score on Friday), Croly's after match comments to Extratime.ie are all the more perplexing;
"We knew Ciaran (Kilduff) would score. Ciaran will get goals, he is quality"
5) The League of Ireland is the greatest little league in the world
Not only do you have clubs wishing each other good luck in Europe.
— St Patrick's Ath (@stpatsfc) July 4, 2013
You also have moments like this
Nice touch by the Bohs stewards as they share their chips and buffalo wings with the travelling support
— Limerick FC (@LimerickFCie) July 5, 2013
Thursday sees Pats host Zalgiris with a 2-2 draw from the away leg. Drogheda travel to Malmo hoping to score an away goal and give the Swedish side a fright.