Cork City are aiming for 10 in a row while Bray Wanderers look to add to recent good form
Another pivotal Friday and Saturday awaits in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division as leaders Cork City look to make it 10 wins out of 10 at the start of 2017.
Former Drogheda United, Monaghan United and Bray Wanderers manager Mick Cooke has made his weekly predictions ahead of the rounds of fixtures to come.
Third placed Bray Wanderers' recent good form was capped with a 3-1 away win at Dundalk and that has lifted them level on points with the reigning champions.
They go up against a Shamrock Rovers side sitting just inside the top half of the table after an inconsistent campaign so far.
On that game, Mick says: "I do fancy Bray for this one and they're going for four in a row. After that win up at Dundalk, they will be full of confidence."
While their defensive record was rather poor at one point (they have conceded the most goals in the top half, although they are second top scorers), he feels Bray's experienced names like Gary McCabe and Bisto Flood are helping them come out the right side of games.
Meanwhile, Mick feels Rovers are in a phase of transition with their own team.
"I watched Rovers last week against Sligo and I'm not convinced this is the year for Shamrock Rovers as of yet. They're doing a good job but it's a building job."
Prediction: "Certainly I feel it will be three points for Bray Wanderers".
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny and his Cork City counterpart have had plenty to say in the last week as Mick discussed earlier but the reigning champions have a nine point gap to close.
They face a Bohs side whose upturn in form has returned to the direction of a downturn after recent defeats.
"Bohs have had three defeats in the last few weeks," says Mick.
"You'd fancy Dundalk to get back to winning ways after the upheaval last week against Bray."
Mick still backs Dundalk to get back into the chase for the title with fast-starting Cork: "I think they will be in the chase in the end. They still have to play Cork twice and I think certainly the long season last year and when they had a double weekend there a couple of weekends ago. It's a lot for them and they probably wouldn't have been able to have the same pre-season as other teams and they're still finding their feet. But I still think they will push Cork."
Prediction: "I think Dundalk will get back to winning ways in this one."
It's been a superb start in terms of results for Cork who could make it 10 wins out of 10 away at a struggling Pats' side.
Mick feels the manner of their run means the prospect of making it 10 from 10 won't have a detrimental effect on the Cork team.
"I think when any team is in a run of games where you're unbeaten and in that run if you have a couple of draws but you're still unbeaten, you get the thought in your mind, 'we'll try and stay unbeaten'. But Cork have nine straight wins and it's a different thing. No draws there," he says, emphasising that the mentality will be to keep racking up wins rather than simply remaining unbeaten.
Prediction: "I can't see Pats stopping Cork."
Limerick have climbed up to fourth so far but Galway are four points adrift at the bottom after eight winless games.
"Already it's going to be a big turnaround for Galway and I can't see them stopping Limerick," says Mick.
"Limerick since Martin Russell has gone, they've had two wins."
Prediction: "With their last couple of wins in the league, I would tip Limerick to get the three points."
Ciaran O'Connor of Finn Harps celebrates scoring their second goal with team mate Caolan McAleer ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Seventh hosts ninth in the 8pm kick off on Friday and Mick stresses Finn Harps "tough, workman like" qualities and their ability thus far to grind out results.
"Going to Ballybofey, no matter who goes there, will find it tough," says Mick.
Prediction: "I'd go for a Harps win."
Derry City are fifth at present after playing seven games, while Sligo are second from bottom ahead of their fixture.
"Unfortunately, it's been three defeats in a row since their captain sadly passed away," says Mick.
"It's obviously been very hard for the team."
On Sligo, Mick continues: "They are still near the bottom and still without a manager."
Prediction: "The way both sides are on form, I would go for a draw in the North West."