All the waiting ended on Friday and the 2017 SSE Airtricity League finally kicked off. It was certainly a successful opening night.
Nine games across the two divisions produced 21 goals [23 goals in 10 games for the weekend when you add in the 1-1 draw on Saturday between Cobh and Wexford], four red cards and 32 yellows. Almost 5,000 turned up at a revamped Oriel Park pitch to see champions Dundalk overcome challengers Shamrock Rovers 2-1.
A statement of intent, a marker laid down.
Anybody who wants the title will have to take it the hard way.
Rovers failed their first test while last-season’s other top-four sides Cork and Derry at least started as they mean to go on with good wins away at Finn Harps and Bohemians respectively.
The omens didn’t look good on Friday morning. Storm Doris had arrived late in the week to try to wreak havoc with the fixture list as well as the power lines any other structures that got in her way.
Some of the national media seemed to forget that the domestic league was back that day and gave priority to covering Claudia Ranieri’s removal as Leicester City manager.
Perhaps they think this football lark is something they should be covering and so seize upon any soccer-related story that looks big, instead of setting their own agenda and prioritizing the SSE Airtricity League.
Of course I have sympathy for Ranieri. He won the Premiership with a squad that should have got nowhere near it. They are still in the Champions League. But football is a results business and he hasn’t delivered the results in the league this term, leaving the Foxes fighting relegation. He has to carry the can.
I have more sympathy with Wayne Shaw though. Ranieri will be paid handsomely to go away but Shaw lost his livelihood. Sutton United’s reserve goalie was sacked for eating a pie on the bench during the FA Cup replay against Arsenal on Monday last.
The FA tried to say it was as serious an issue as match-fixing. How absurd. These are the people who are charged with investigating the horrific sex abuse against young boys at some of their member cubs during recent decades. Doesn’t instill confidence, does it?
Back to Friday. It was a good night for the promoted teams, with Limerick hammering Sligo 5-1 and Drogheda United winning 0-1 away at Galway. It was a poor night for Dublin’s clubs.
As I’ve mentioned Rovers lost away to Dundalk and Bohemians at home to Derry. Biggest shock of all though was St Patrick’s Athletic going down 2-1 at home to Bray Wanderers.
Or maybe it wasn’t such a shock – big things are expected of the Seagulls this year, both by their own fans and the neutral observer.
Bray’s goals came from two new signings, Anto Flood and Gary McCabe. Star player from last term Dylan Connolly shone again and Bray deserved the win.
Pats may have finished the game with nine men [Conor Keena was red-carded for a foul on Connolly and Darren Dennehy walked for his part in the ensuing melee] but Bray already had scored their goals at that late stage.
We have Finn Harps at home next week, let’s hope the Carlisle is packed because Harry Kenny and these boys have something special going on and deserved to be backed to the hilt.