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LOI Wrap Up: Rovers Focus On The League, As Title Battle Heats Up

LOI Wrap Up: Rovers Focus On The League, As Title Battle Heats Up
By John Dodge
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Read on for our weekly LOI wrap up - the best in the world!

Within a month, all but 2 clubs will be done for the year. For some fans, it's about cherishing these last precious moments before a long, hard winter is to be endured. For others, the countdown to sweet relief from the misery is on. Some clubs will have fans in both camps.

When you read about LOI fans as a homogenous group, remember that even fans of the same club can't agree on whether they're having a good or bad season never mind whether Stephen Kenny is the man to bring the men's national team forward. Anyway, here's the week that was, and what to look forward this weekend, in this week's LOI wrap up

The greatest LOI wrap up in the world: Week 35

So Rovers are concentrating on the league now?

In his pre game presser in Norway, Stephen Bradley was open to the idea of qualifying from the groups and outlined how it might be done. "We're here to win" the game against Molde, he said.  After the game, he spoke about the bigger picture of beating Shelbourne on Sunday and the importance of winning the league. Bradley left out some of his talented midfielders but once again it was his experienced defence that let him down away from home.  Rovers are still 5 points clear with 5 games left and last week won impressively in Sligo with a couple of high quality goals. They won't face the same quality as Molde on Sunday in Tallaght when they host Shelbourne.  While the Conference League groups might be a bit anti-climactic, Rovers will likely have another crack it next year if they win their 3 remaining home games.  Now if they don't beat Shels, the pressure might legitimately be on. It's live on RTE 2 on Sunday at 5pm.

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Dundalk and Pats not as vital as it was shaping up to be

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St Pats' run of form ended last week with defeat to Derry City followed by an insane 4-4 draw with Shelbourne in Tolka Park. Even with a win in Dundalk tonight, they'll still need to outperform Dundalk for the rest of the season to get ahead of them. Pats were undone by a brilliant Cian Kavanagh goal on Friday and some awful defending on Monday. Dundalk maintained their excellent home record with a relatively easy win over Drogheda United and have now won 11 of their 15 home games, remaining unbeaten. 3 of their final 5 games are in the temporarily renamed Casey's Field.

Fixture shifts again

Remember all the way back in the opening paragraph when we talked about LOI fans, despite what some non-believers think, ever agreeing on anything. No better example of that this year than the fixture shifts for European football.  No one other than the clubs involved like them, and some downright loathe them.

During the week the final set of fixtures for the Premier Division were moved from Friday 4th November, to Sunday 6th November.  The games will kick off at 7pm to avoid clashing with the Women's FAI Cup Final between Shelbourne and Athlone Town. The same people look after both leagues so it's probably not fair to say they didn't consider the Women's game, but they still went ahead and stepped on it.

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The Women's Cup final was correctly separated from the men's final to give it it's own showcase and there's no doubt, there'll be media missing from the game as they'll be covering the men's games now.

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While UCD v Shamrock Rovers clearly had to be moved because of Rovers' Thursday night European game, the league might have jumped the gun in moving the others. Ostensibly, the games were moved to ensure any games that could effect the title, European places or relegation are played at the same time. They might all be done and dusted with a couple of weeks to spare.

LOI Wrap up: Relegation

To be fair to the league, the relegation fight looks like it will go down to the wire. Finn Harps picked up a point at home to Shels last week and drew level with UCD who lost to Bohemians.  Tonight UCD host a Sligo Rovers side with nothing to play for while Finn Harps travel to their local rivals Derry City who are chasing a title.  All eyes remain fixed on the penultimate day of the season though with Harps hosting UCD. The league might want it to go to the late day, but both clubs will be hoping for a win there to secure the play off spot.

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How did we get a four team title race in the WNL?

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There's no games in the WNL this week with Vera Pauw's international side preparing for the World Cup play off in Scotland on Tuesday.  It gives us time to look ahead at what has become a four team title race. Wexford Youths lost to Athlone Town to blow it wide open last weekend.

It leaves the top 4 separated by only 3 points with 3 games to go.Wexford lead the way with 52 points. They'll play Sligo (h), Peamount (a) and Shels (h).

Shels are a point back on 51. They play DLR Waves (in "neutral" Whitehall ), Sligo (h) and Wexford (a). So if either of those two win out, they'll be champions.

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Waiting in the wings on 49 points are Peamount United and Athlone Town. Peamount have Cork (a), Wexford (h) and Galway (a).

Athlone have Treaty (a), Galway (h) and Bohs (a).

With their current form, you could see Athlone winning all three. If Peamount do the same and Wexford beat Shels and Sligo, we'd have 3 teams on 58 points. The league could be decided on head-to-head record but regardless of who wins, it's almost certain to go down to the final day with at least 3 clubs in the title hunt. Let's hope it doesn't clash with some men's football.

Check back in next week for installment 36 of our regular LOI wrap up.

SEE ALSO: Roy Keane Picks Fellow Irishman For Dream World Cup Five-A-Side Team

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