It’s time to reflect on what was a highly entertaining second round of fixtures in the League of Ireland. The weather wreaked havoc up and down the country all week and had games in real trouble of postponement but thanks to the excellent work by the groundsmen, every game went ahead. Despite the weather over 15 thousand fans got out to see their teams in action and they were treated with goals.
Across the 9 games there was 35 goals scored including an 8-goal thriller at the Carlisle Grounds and there were 2 goals scored when the lights went out in Buncrana after 25 minutes, a game that would have provided many more. After 2 games, 6 teams still await their first point while Cork City, Drogheda United and UCD are yet to concede a goal.
So, what did we learn this week?
Cork and Dundalk will take some stopping.
Last season’s top 2 have already set the pace with two wins from two and 11 goals scored between them. Dundalk are still showing the hunger that brought them 3 league titles in a row as they easily dispatched Sligo Rovers on Saturday night. Michael Duffy and Patrick McEleney have hit the ground running with the latter scoring a sumptuous curling free kick at the Showgrounds this weekend.
The champions won’t be giving up on their title any time soon and showed strength in depth as Dane Massey and captain Stephen O’Donnell were unavailable, Niclas Vemmelund was moved to left back while Conor Clifford came in for the captain and they still maintained a certain level of quality.
Cork City boss John Caulfield will be watching every Dundalk move and while his record against Stephen Kenny is impressive, he will need his side not to drop any silly points this season. Sean Maguire is proving pivotal once again as he bagged the only goal in Ballybofey and got the crucial 1st goal at the weekend.
There’s a good balance to this Cork side with Greg Bolger anchoring the midfield and the newly signed energetic Jimmy Keohane partnering Gearoid Morrissey just in front to form an exciting midfield trio. Ryan Delaney got his first goal at the weekend and has settled superbly beside Alan Bennett at centre back. This could be the best title race yet.
It’s the perfect start for Pete Mahon side who are one of the favourites to go straight back down this season. Having defeated Wexford in the playoffs last season, Mahon has recruited well including the signing of Killian Brennan and although he is injured at the moment, he will play a key role in this Drogheda team.
A team with ex Ireland internationals in Stephen Elliott and Sean Thornton bring their experience to guide players like Jake Hyland and Gareth McCaffery who have a bit about them. Having weathered an early St Pats storm, Drogheda punished a slack Saints defence for Hyland to score and set the newly promoted on their way to 3 points. Stats show that the Inchicore side had the best chances but just like last week for Drogheda they took their chances and the 3 points. A big weekend with 2 games in 3 days, can Drogheda maintain their good start?
Athlone foreign policy working a treat.
Having finished rock bottom last season with just 3 wins and a total of 14 points, Athlone now sit joint top with 2 wins from 2. Under the guidance of Colin Fortune and newly appointed director of football Marc Fourmeaux they have turned things around in the midlands and raised a few eyebrows.
There were 5 foreign players in the starting line up at Ferrycarrig Park this weekend that ranged from Latvia, Romania and Portugal with Portuguese striker Jose Viegas hitting the first on the way to a 2-1 win. It’s always good to see new players come into the league and this will be an interesting watch for the next couple of months. The rumours of a Portuguese businessman helping Athlone out maybe true giving the influx of players but can they make a surprise promotion bid?
Waterford are up and running.
After the takeover by Lee Power much was expected at the RSC this season especially when Pat Fenlon signed on the dotted line to become director. The ex-Bohemians manager was brought in to try and convince players to join the Waterford project and get them back to the Premier Division. The signings made have been clever and despite an opening day loss to Athlone, Waterford have go going this weekend.
The signing of David McDaid was not only a surprise one but a superb one has his scoring prowess will surely deliver for Waterford this season which included a brace this weekend. The Waterford squad on paper looks exceptionally strong with Dave Mulcahy and Kenny Browne partnering at centre back and a midfield with Anthony McAlavey and Sander Puri makes for exciting times. The signing however of Mark O’Sullivan will be an instrumental one as he played a key role in the weekend win. Promotion the only objective for Pat Fenlon.
Best of the rest.
An early relegation battle has commenced for St Pats, Sligo Rovers and Bohemians as all 3 have lost their opening games and unless they get points in this weekend’s fixtures, they could be in bigger trouble. Sligo face St Pats on Friday so somebody will be getting their first points if not both. Liam Buckley side will be hoping to get at the Sligo rear-guard that has shipped 9 goals in 2 games while Dave Robertson will be hoping for a better performance all over the pitch.
Unsurprisingly Galway United are pointless which is making the decision to appoint Shane Keegan as the manage a very strange one after he was in charge of relegated Wexford last season. No doubt he done an excellent job over the years and in getting Wexford to the Premier Division but he lacks the experience at the top flight. He has better players this season than in previous years and will need to respond from the drubbing they took from Cork City this weekend.
Finn Harps are going to have a very hard time maintain their Premier Division status and manager Ollie Horgan knows that. They headed to high flying Bray hoping to get something to kick start their season buy what he got was costly and embarrassing errors. Bray were full value for their win but not without the help from referee Anthony Buttimer who assisted in 3 Bray goals.
The first from a Dylan Connolly dive on the edge of the area, with the resulting free kick eventually turned in. The second from a penalty awarded for a handball outside the box and the third when goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher received a kick to the head when trying to clear the ball, play was not stopped and Gary McCabe stuck the ball into the empty net
These were all after a possible penalty for Finn Harps at 0-0 was not giving and Bray picked up their second win of the season. Baffling decisions from a referee who’s never without any controversy and if the job isn’t hard enough for Horgan, he could do without having to worry about the standard of officiating in the league.
Image Credit: John-Paul Mc Ginley