Pat's bid to make title statement in Tallaght
A pivotal weekend for all the Premier Division title challengers beckons.
Tonight, table-toppers St Patrick's Athletic head for Tallaght Stadium to face Shamrock Rovers, who are refusing to give up hope, despite a plethora of costly draws.
Nine miles away, Derry City face a tricky test against a resurgent UCD, while Stephen Kenny's Dundalk, the splendid surprise packets, are at Tolka Park as Shelbourne's steady improvement under Johnny McDonnell continues.
Tomorrow, Sligo Rovers host Bray Wanderers, another encounter loaded with importance.
Saints defender Aidan Price is adamant that a defining match is imminent at a venue in which his team suffered a significant early-season loss.
"The last time we played in Tallaght in the league, we just weren't good enough," he admitted. "But it ended up being a real turning point for us. We were really honest with ourselves in knowing what we needed to do and we went on a great run from that moment."
Rovers manager Trevor Croly is priming the Hoops for a busy week, with an EA Sports Cup semi-final with Sligo and another league joust with arch-rivals Bohemians also on the agenda.
"The Pat's game gives us a good chance to reduce the gap on the teams ahead of us. After that we have a cup semi-final to look forward to and then another derby next weekend. So it is a big week and one that gives us plenty of opportunities to make gains."
That is also what Derry manager Declan Devine wants to do.
"I feel that, if we were to secure three points against UCD, it would put us in a very strong position," he said.
Dundalk have enjoyed a terrific campaign and yesterday, promising striker Pat Hoban was awarded the Airtricity SWAI Player of the Month for July.
Former Bristol City youngster Hoban reckons Kenny's side have the belief and momentum to maintain their push for honours.
"I can't see why not," he said. "There is a good buzz at the moment. Especially after beating Rovers and getting them out of the equation, kind of.
"People were writing us off for the last couple of weeks. Now they are starting to realise we could actually do something. But you've got to take every game as it comes, they're all tough."
The versatile Hoban, who hurled for Loughrea in last year's Galway SHC final defeat to St Thomas', thinks Kenny's training-ground innovation is key.
"He sets us up in such a good way to play with a bit of freedom. We keep the ball so well. We're also able to physically win the hard games as well," he said.
From now on they may have to do that in every contest.