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League of Ireland preview: what to look out for this weekend

St Pat’s meet Bohs tonight in another busy round of Airtricity League showdowns. Here’s what you need to know.

t Patrick's Athletic Daniel North.
t Patrick's Athletic Daniel North.
Image: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

1. Pat’s in good form heading into Bohs tie

WHEN BOHEMIANS DREW with St Patrick’s Athletic on 1 April, Pete Mahon’s side looked destined for a mid-table finish.

Now, the Saints meet Bohs tonight and much has changed.

The Inchicore men have gone on an impressive run since that 0-0 at Richmond Park, losing just once against Sligo Rovers, and having won five of their last six in all competitions, a victory at Dalymount this evening would see them join Bohs on 22 points.

Much of that has been down to the simple reason that Pat’s have found some consistency. They were erratic at best in the opening weeks, see the 3-2 games at home as a perfect example, but if they can continue this form they should be challenging for a European spot come the business end of the year.

2. Could Rovers be complacent or will there be another Drog drubbing?

Top face bottom at Tallaght as Shamrock Rovers will surely stay at the summit against what increasingly appears to be a Drogheda side that is void of any confidence.

Their low morale is totally understandable though, as two draws and eleven defeats looks both ugly and sad for Mick Cooke’s inexperienced side.

Things couldn’t be more different in south Dublin however, where the Hoops added the Setanta Cup last week and still remain top of the league with a game in hand.

Bookmakers make them big favourites to still be there to retain their title, and on this form it doesn’t look like they’ll be stopped. A Rovers win is once more practically guaranteed tonight, what’s difficult to predict is by how much they’ll win.

3. Nations Cup causes unnecessary disturbance

I would suggest not looking for any previews here next Friday, because there are no games. No folks, the whole programme next weekend has been moved to accommodate the Carling Nations Cup at the Aviva.

While it might be somewhat understandable if the Republic were playing, changing dates of LoI games because of Wales v Northern Ireland seems a tad ridiculous.

Instead, all 10 games across both divisions will be played on Thursday night, with attendances across the country expected to see substantial drops.

The FAI are now offering free entry to both the Wales v Scotland and Northern Ireland v Wales matches of the tournament on May 25 and May 27 with a ticket stub from the Ireland v Northern Ireland game.

Very low attendances are expected at those games, and both moves seem to stink of desperation.

4. Connacht derby shouldn’t be too much trouble for Sligo

While Drogheda’s woes are quite obvious, almost the same could be said for their team nearest to them in the table, Galway United.

Sean Connor’s Tribesmen face the short trip north to The Showgrounds tomorrow night, where Sligo Rovers will be looking to keep up with Shamrock Rovers.

The Bit O’Red, despite a sluggish start to the campaign, are currently in third, two points off the pace albeit with a game extra played compared to the leaders.

It means there’ll be pressure on them to beat a Galway side that have lost seven on the bounce, but with the league’s current top scorer Eoin Doyle in blistering form, they’re likely to add a comfortable three points.

5. Harps switch a peculiar one

While there is a new management team in place at Finn Harps, the Ballybofey outfit have now decided to change all home games to Saturday nights in an attempt to get more bodies through the ‘stiles.

Bottom-of-the-table Harps have struggled in all departments so far in 2011, but the move has seen some criticism, with locals arguing that the move will clash with local GAA games too.

It remains to be seen how the switch will work out, but it is not set for its first test run in the league until June 10th (see 3 for the reason why!) when Waterford United make the long journey north.

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