It was a weekend that tested all of the premier division squad’s fitness and quality, with a quick turnaround in games from Friday to Tuesday. Only runaway leaders – Cork City managed to take 6 points from their 2 games, while also extending their lead to 15 points. Dundalk impressively beat Limerick on Friday, but for the first time this season they failed to find the net at home to Derry City. This was also the champions first draw of the season as they fall further away from Cork.
It was a bad weekend for Bray as they could only manage 1 point from their 2 games, which came in as a surprising 0-0 draw away to Drogheda. It was the second-best attack against 2nd worst defence, so a scoreless draw looked unlikely; that point for Bray however leaves them 2 points adrift of Dundalk.
Derry impressive run continues as they took 4 points from 6, while Shamrock Rovers could only manage 1 win from their 2 games. Neil McDonald got a footballing lesson in his first game in charge for Limerick as the champions were in clinical form on Friday, but the ex-Blackpool manager got the perfect response on Tuesday with a 2-1 win away to Bohemians.
St Pats, Sligo Rovers and Drogheda United could only manage a point from their games, as Bohemians, Galway and Finn Harps claimed a win each; which now leaves the gap at 2 points from 7th to 12th in race to beat the drop.
There were 4 wins in the first division at the weekend, with 4 teams unable to find the net while there was a first win of the season for Wexford. Waterford picked up a third consecutive 1-0 win thanks to Derek Daly’s early goal to defeat Longford. Cobh Ramblers won the battle for second at the UCD Bowl as they open a 2-point gap over the Students. Roddy Collins returned to the dugout for the first time this season, but his efforts were in vain as Athlone lost to Cabinteely.
So, what have we learned this week?
St Pats inconsistency keeps them in trouble
Having played well in recent weeks, Liam Buckley would have targeted 4 points from this mini-series of game’s but instead they claim 1. On Friday, the Saints attacked better than they defended, which is why they are in the bottom half of the table. A draw was a fair outcome as both sides missed enough chances to kill 2 games off, but it was a point St Pats could build on.
They travelled to Ballybofey on Monday to take on bottom of the table Finn Harps, who had their own problems with injuries and currently on a 6-game losing streak. However, to some kamikaze defending and poor goalkeeping, Ollie Horgan’s men eased their way to victory. The Saints have only picked up 1 win in their last 8 league games, 4 of those games were draws; and they have only managed to keep 2 clean sheets this season. They face Dundalk on Friday, before 2 consecutive Dublin Derby’s against Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians respectively; and if they are to have any hope of staying up, they need to find some consistency in their game.
The Candystripes are clicking
Having suffered 3 straight league defeats by mid-April, Derry City looked like they could fall down the pecking order and get sucked into the relegation fight, but since then they have gone on an 8-match unbeaten run. 6 of the 8 games have ended in draws but the confidence is building through a club that was rocked earlier in the season.
Outside of the Cork City midfield, Aaron McEneff must be one of the best midfielders in the league at the moment with his energy and goal scoring abilities he has put on show for us. He has already scored 6 times, which is the same amount of goals he got last season; also with the absence of Barry McNamee, he has pushed the Candystripes on this excellent run.
Kenny Shiels has done a wonderful job in turning things around with Derry and with McNamee back from injury, the 2012 FAI Cup winners are a real threat to everyone.
A 3-way fight for promotion
With the inconsistency of Cabinteely and Shelbourne who have both recorded just 1 win in their last 6, a 7-point gap has opened from 3rd to 4th. Waterford are unbeaten since their opening day defeat and don’t really look like losing either. They are currently top just 2 points clear of Cobh, whom they travel to this weekend in a massive game.
The Blues have conceded only once in their last 5 games and face a Cobh side, which is an extremely organised which have scored in every league game this season. Saturday night will be a real blockbuster as it’s the league’s best attack vs the best defence, where something has got to give.
For Collie O’Neil and UCD, they will travel to Athlone on Friday in search of 3 points that will lift them into second place. They will turn their focus to St Colemans Park on Saturday in hope that a draw will be the outcome, which will leave them just 2 points off the summit.
A win for Wexford to build on
So, after 4 draws and 8 defeats, Wexford have finally got their 1st win of the season as they beat Shelbourne 1-0. It was also only their second clean sheet of the season as the club continues to struggle from relegation last year.
This season, Wexford were not helped by off the field issues that forced them to take away the “Youth’s” from their name, as financial problems started to strangle the club. To add to this the mass exodus of their best players who looked for pastures new and as did manager Shane Keegan, who went to Galway; it was inevitable that it would result in a struggle for them this season.
Putting their troubles aside, coach Damien Locke has finally got that elusive first win and will now look to build on that, starting with a trip to Longford on Saturday night. They will look for a repeat of their clean sheet against Longford earlier in the season but will hope to nick one at the other end.