It's week 6 of the SSE Airtricity League and that means the league table is starting to take shape. Here's what you should be looking out for this weekend;
1) Can Cork City continue their remarkable home form and put more pressure on Sligo Rovers?
In a league table of performance against fans' expectations, this might be top v bottom. Cork fans were more hopeful than expectant coming into the season and looking for their 6th straight win, they've every right to be jubilant. In their last 11 home games, they've won 9 and drawn 2 so the bumper crowds in Turners Cross are certainly getting their money's worth. Sligo Rovers have been the most consistently successful team over the past 4 seasons (5 major trophies won) and they came into this season talking about re-gaining the league title they won in 2012. It hasn't started well for them. After an opening day win at home to Athlone Town, Sligo lost 4 in a row before drawing 1-1 with Drogheda United last time out. Their 3 away games have all resulted in 0-1 defeats. If Sligo lose tonight they'll be 12 points behind Cork already.
2) Who'll get the bragging rights from the Pats/Rovers derby?
The closest two teams in the Premier Division are St Patrick's Athletic and Shamrock Rovers. There's been a slight push to call this derby the Luas derby (with the red line connecting Inchicore and Tallaght) but the most interesting thing about this game is that it may be the only game where the managers hate each other. Trevor Croly was Liam Buckley's assistant in 2012 and left on fairly acrimonious terms to become the main man at Shamrock Rovers (bring several players with him). Last year Croly's Rovers beat Pats in the first league game and in 3 cup competitions but Buckley's Pats had the last laugh by becoming champions with Rovers finishing 5th. In the last league game Pats won 4-0 much to the delight of their fans. Both teams have had up'n'down starts to the season but a win tonight will at least give their fans bragging rights in west Dublin.
3) How many goals will be scored in UCD v Dundalk?
Dundalk hammered Pats and Derry last weekend, scoring 7 goals over the 180 minutes. They're the league's top scorers with 12 so far. They've also conceded 8 so they're not exactly air tight at the back. UCD's games have produced 23 goals (also a league high) so you can expect entertainment in the Belfield Bowl this evening. Dundalk's momentum should carry them to another victory but UCD have 2 of their last 3 and won't be afraid of any team.
4) Another week, another Roddy Collins plotline...
In our pre-season preview we talked about Roddy Collins being box-office. He hasn't let us down. Tonight sees Collins's Derry side host the team he walked out on/got sacked by (depending on who you believe) in pointless Athlone Town. Collins has spoke all season about Derry looking to attack and give their fans something to get behind but so far they’ve only scored 3 goals. That’s exactly half the goals Athlone have scored. Their problems have been all defensively and tonight they’re missing their best defender in Derek Prendergast. If Collins can’t get Derry scoring goals tonight, Derry are in trouble.
5) Can Drogheda’s classy strikers keep up their form?
During the week one of Drogheda United’s veteran strikers Gary O’Neill picked up his LOI Player of the Month award for March. The other veteran, Fabio O’Brien, is currently top of the scoring charts with 7 goals in 5 games. They’ve propelled Drogheda to an unbeaten start to the league campaign and they lay only a point behind Cork, Rovers and Dundalk at the top of the league. Tonight they’ll face a Bray side who feel they’ve been a little unlucky with recent results but if Drogheda can win and go top, it’ll be a remarkable feat for a team tipped to struggle by many.
Whatever happens, enjoy the games!