IT'S the most open league race in years, but St Pat's boss Pete Mahon still expects Dublin rivals Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers to slug it out for the Premier Division title this season.
This year's campaign has thrown up some very surprising results so far. Chief among have been Drogheda United becoming the team to end St Pat's unbeaten run and follow that up by going on a four-game losing streak, and Bray Wanderers earning a shock win away at an in-form Dundalk side but just days later losing at home to a Galway United side who were so understrength that they had to start the game with a full-back in goal.
There is just a nine-point gap between league leaders St Pat's and Sligo Rovers, third from bottom after Saturday's defeat at home to Sporting Fingal, and Mahon says he's pleased to see such a start to the season.
"It's a very open league," Mahon said ahead of the Saints' next test, a very tricky game away at an in-form UCD side tonight.
"Bohs drew again on Friday, so there you go. They were stand-out favourites at the start of the season, together with Rovers and Fingal, and there was no mention of Dundalk or us.
"I think it's a great leveller this year. Rovers, Bohs and Fingal could well come to the fore, and they'll finish top of the pile.
"All you can do, the old cliche in football, is take one game at a time.
"I did say that it is hard to win a match in this league and we've won four since our last defeat, so we've done well. It's very difficult, you try and work in the environment in the league and there are all sorts of everyday problems.
"I think the players who play in the league, there's no world beaters, but they deserve the credit for the time they put in and the effort they put in. And we're certainly finding that we're pushed to the pin of our collar to keep things going here," added Mahon, who admitted that his side are showing signs of tiredness after playing 15 games already this season, and he could make changes to his side for the UCD tie.
"In fairness to the players, they've been very good. I'm not going to criticise them after a defeat," he stated after the 2-1 loss to Rovers.
"We've got to try and remain positive and be realistic, and I hope the fans that were here tonight will be realistic as well. We're still top of the league, whether it be on goal difference or whatever, and we're in the final of a cup.
"What we've got to do is not let that side-track us. We've got to focus on the here and now, and our next game is UCD. That won't be easy, there's no easy games in this league."