The SSE Airtricity League is made up of 3 series of games. The final series starts tonight. Let's see what it has in store for us
1) The Pat Fenlon era begins in Tallaght.
Once Trevor Croly was
sacked mutually consented last weekend, there was only ever going to be one man to take charge of Shamrock Rovers. Nutsy has won 5 leagues as manager and his so-called poor spell in charge of Hibs looks a lot better now that Terry Butcher relegated the team he had in 7th place before he was mutually consented last year. He basically has one job this season and that's to get Rovers into Europe. A 4th place finish may be enough and they've a ten point cushion over tonight's visitors Derry City. Judging by social media, the feelgood factor has returned to Tallaght. If Fenlon's as good a manager as most think he is, he'll be looking to harness that into a cup win too.
2) Dundalk look for some sort of revenge
There haven't been too many blips this season for Dundalk. They're in the EA Sports Cup final, they're still in FAI Cup, they've won a round in Europe and, oh yeah, they have a 6 point lead at the top of the table. Star player Richie Towell is proving anyone who doubted his talents wrong every week and it's likely they'll wrap up the league title in 6/7 games time. So why do they want revenge? Because on the opening day of the season Drogheda embarrassed them winning 4-1 in United Park. Even though they've won 7-0 since, Dundalk fans will want to win big away to their local rivals to take any bragging rights away. It'll be a huge test for Drogheda's new boss Damian Richardson. The game is live on Setanta Ireland with an 8pm kick off.
3) Can Cork City bounce back against the Champions?
2 weeks ago Cork City were level on points at the top of the table. They've lost the last 2 games and go into tonight's game with St Pats knowing another defeat would see them slip into 3rd place (with Pats leapfrogging them). They'll face a Pats team who've only won 3 times away this season (at Bray, Athlone and Drogheda) and who are missing important players like Hoare and Forrester through suspension. In the 4 previous games against the top 3 this season, Cork City have lost 3 and drawn 1 (at home to Pats on the opening day). If they're to catch Dundalk, they'll need to take advantage of Pats problems tonight. If Pats manage to sneak a win, they'll see themselves as Dundalk's biggest rivals. 2nd v 3rd is always a good game.
4) Can Athlone shock Sligo and get closer to safety?
It isn't likely. Athlone have earned 2 points away from home all season and they came against Bohs and Bray (the two teams with the worst home records - along with Athlone). Sligo's defeat last week leaves them in 6th and with very little hope of anything from this season. Athlone are bottom for a reason so "wanting it" isn't really enough at this level but if John Coleman has an eye on next year, he might not play his best XI and Athlone can take advantage. They're 5 points off 2nd bottom so need all the help they can get.
5) Can UCD get out of the relegation spot?
Last night Limerick soundly thumped Bray Wanderers 4-1 to leave the Seagulls on 18 points. That's one ahead of UCD who host Bohs knowing even a point will take them up to 10th and out of the play-off spot. UCD have lost 6 of the last 7 though and no one could feel too strongly about their chances in any game. Until last week's heavu defet in Derry, Bohs fans were feeling OK about their team as Eoin Wearan gave the midfield impetus. A midweek league cup defeat to Rovers hasn't helped the mood but a win tonight and they're practically safe already. UCD need to pick up points though and they'll be targeting tonight to kick start their survival bid.
Whatever happens enjoy the games!