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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 21 May, 2018

5 reasons why you should be watching the League of Ireland this weekend

Cork play Sligo at the Cross, Pat’s welcome Shamrock Rovers while Dundalk are away to UCD.

The Cork players celebrate last weekend.
The Cork players celebrate last weekend.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

1. Rebels riding high

LIFE IS GOOD if you’re a Cork City fan right now.

Despite having Monday night’s league fixture with Limerick postponed due to an unplayable pitch at Thomond (the game has be rescheduled for Tuesday, 20 May) the Leesiders sit top of the table — Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers are both level with them on 13 points.

Turner’s Cross has come alive this season with crowds of over 5,000 fans for the visits of St Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers but manager John Caulfield has warned that they have achieved nothing yet.

The Rebels take on an out-of-form Sligo Rovers who ended a four-game losing streak with a 1-1 draw against Drogheda United but need to start turning things around having picked up just four points so far.

2. Hoops visit Saints

Richmond Park hosts the meeting of two Dublin clubs as Shamrock Rovers make the short trip to Inchicore.

The current Premier Division champions deservedly lost out to an excellent Dundalk on Friday night but bounced back earlier this week by disposing of Bray thanks to goals from top scorer Christy Fagan, Lee Lynch and Chris Forrester.

The Hoops, meanwhile, got the better of UCD to keep up the pace at the top and manager Trevor Croly returns to take on his former mentor Liam Buckley — whose assistant he was before taking the Rovers job atthe start of last season.

“It’s another big game for both teams,” said Croly. “For us, it’s a chance to go top of the league again. And while it’s still very early, you want to be up there as much as possible; that’s where everyone wants to be.”

3. Lilywhites a joy to watch

This week saw Dundalk’s Patrick Hoban criticised by Derry City boss Roddy Collins after a clash of heads resulted in Candystripes defender Ryan McBride spending a night in hospital.

Collins ridiculously claimed Hoban “done him” in the challenge, a suggestion the player himself took to Twitter to deny before Lilywhites manager Stephen Kenny released a message on the club’s website backing his striker.

On the pitch, things couldn’t be going much better for Dundalk at the minute as they followed up a comprehensive 4-1 win over Pat’s by putting three unanswered goals past Derry at the start of the week.

They travel to the Belfield Bowl to take on the Students, who themselves will be encouraged by their form under Aaron Callaghan so far, even if they were beaten by Shamrock Rovers on Monday.

4. A tale of two strikers for Drogs

Drogheda United sit just a single point off the leading pack and strikers Fabio O’Brien and Gary O’Neill have certainly played their parts in the unbeaten league run under Robbie Horgan.

O’Brien hit four goals in his last two games to shoot to the top of the league’s goalscoring charts with six while O’Neill has made a remarkable comeback from testicular cancer to be named SWAI/SSE Airtricity League Player of the Month for March this week.

The Drogs will be looking for more of the same from their frontmen tonight when a Bray side winless in four arrive at Hunky Dorys Park.

5. Roddy reacquainted with Town

As mentioned in a previous point, the always outspoken Roddy Collins was on the offensive this week after watching his team lose to Dundalk.

He has had mixed fortunes since taking over at the Brandywell (with one win, three draws and two defeats) but must be looking at this evening’s game with bottom club Athlone Town as an attainable three points.

Collins led Athlone to the First Division title and promotion in 2013 before his departure saw Mick Cooke take over. This term they have struggled badly to make the step up and have yet to pick up a point from their opening six matches.

We have now come out of what was a very difficult start to the season, as far as fixtures were concerned and it’s a relief to come out of it with four good results,” Collins told the club website.

“This is now really the start to our season in my opinion, where we can play a more inventive and expansive game than we have so far this season. We start with that this Friday with the visit of Athlone, and I feel that if we play the best we can we will win this game.”

SSE Airtricity League fixtures (all kick-offs Friday 7.45pm unless stated)

Premier Division

  • Bohemian FC v Limerick
  • Cork City v Sligo Rovers
  • Derry City v Athlone Town
  • Drogheda United v Bray Wanderers
  • St Patrick’s Athletic v Shamrock Rovers
  • UCD v Dundalk

First Division

  • Galway FC v Shelbourne
  • Finn Harps v Wexford Youths
  • Cobh Ramblers v Waterford United (Saturday, 7.45pm)
  • Shamrock Rovers v Longford Town (Sunday 3pm)

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Ben Blake

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