It's potentially a huge week 9 in the SSE Airtricity League with 4 of the top 5 meeting each other. Here's what you should be looking out for
1) Can Dundalk bounce back against leaders Cork City
Cork City go into the last series of games in the first round (of three) of fixtures leading the league with a game in hand. They've won all 3 previous away games they've played so far but tonight is their biggest test on the road so far. Dundalk were top last week but stumbled away to Bray Wanderers and now sit a point behind the leaders. Dundalk haven't scored from open play since captain Stephen O'Donnell got injured but with attacking players like Richie Towell and Daryl Horgan, that run is unlikely to continue for too long. Horgan made the switch from Cork City in the off-season with Dundalk being the only LOI club to pay a transfer fee (as Horgan was under 23). A lot will rest on his performance tonight.
2) Which of the runs by Sligo Rovers and St Pats will come to an end?
Sligo Rovers have scored 15 goals in their last 3 league and cup games as they dragged themselves away from the bottom of the table. That run began with Rovers demolishing St Pats 5-1 in the Setanta Cup semi final. The Champions are on a good run themselves and have won their last 5 league games to join Cork City at the head of the league table. Christy Fagan is the form striker in the league with 8 league goals so far including 4 in his last 3 games. He'll need to banish bad memories of the Showgrounds where he missed a last minute penalty for Pats in 2012 that would have given the Saints a 2-1 win. They haven't won in the league at the showgrounds in since March 2009.
3) Will Keith Long inspire Athlone Town to their first point?
Athlone Town seek their first point of the season tonight, with new manager Keith Long in charge for the first time, at home to Bray Wanderers. Long spent more time as a player with Bray than anywhere else and all his coaching and managerial experience has come at the County Wicklow club. It certainly won't be easy for Athlone as Bray's win over Dundalk last week showed that they can compete with anybody.
4) Will Shamrock Rovers be top after the weekend?
Of the top 5 sides, Shamrock Rovers are the only one to be playing someone else. They host Limerick in Tallaght Stadium knowing they could be top this evening and at the very least a win will see them gain points on half the others. Limerick's defensive game plan won't be a surprise to Trevor Croly but Rovers haven't had a problem scoring goals recently. Rovers finished the first series of games last season with 13 points, if they win tonight they'll have earned 23 this term. Even if they aren't top this weekend, they're very much in the title race.
5) Will Bohs heap pressure on Roddy Collins
The cult of Roddy Collins was born in Dalymount Park when Roddy succesfully avoided relegation and turned them into double winners in couple of seasons. There are still many Rodestants among the Bohs faithful. It wouldn't be too big a stretch to say he has more fans there than in Derry. His defensive football and, alleged, falling outs with senior players like Rory Patterson haven't done much to win over the locals. A defeat for Derry tonight would see Bohs leapfrog them and leave them with only 2 wins so far. Not an ideal time to be leaving out last year's top scorer.
Whatever happens, enjoy the games!