It has been a hectic few days in the league of Ireland, as the clubs started their European adventure last Thursday. We also had our weekly instalment of league games and sandwiched in between all of that – was the financial crisis at Bray Wanderers.
Cork City and Shamrock Rovers claimed 2 impressive away wins in the Europa League that has them in control for this week’s 2nd leg, but Derry City couldn’t cope with the excellent Midtjylland as they hit the Candystripes for 6. With Derry all but out, the other 2 sides have a great chance of making the 2nd qualifying round with away goals and home advantage.
It wasn’t the most prolific of games this weekend as we had only managed to see 15 goals, 6 teams failing to score and 1 goalless draw. The fixtures will become messed up over the next few weeks with the European games in full flow and after Dundalk play Bohemians on Wednesday, Cork will have 3 games in hand over the champions. Stephen Kenny’s men can really put the pressure on the leaders with another win there to reduce the gap to 9 points.
Sligo Rovers were the only side in the bottom 5 to pick up 3 points and that moved them up into 8th. St Pats and Galway could only manage a point each at Richmond Park, while Drogheda United continue to struggle as they lost at home to Limerick.
Cobh Ramblers took full advantage of Waterford, and UCD drew the night before when they put 3 past Athlone at home on Saturday night. The gap at the top is now 3 points as Waterford have failed to win in their last 2 games. Neale Fenn got off to the perfect start as Longford Town manager, as his side beat Cabinteely 1-0 to which made them jump straight into 4th.
So, what have we learned this week?
As expected, The Seagulls have their wings clipped.
While losing 2-0 at half time to Dundalk at home, the Bray Wanderers board decided to release a statement saying that financially they are in big trouble for the remainder of the season. On Thursday, they had accepted a bid of €35k from Dundalk for Dylan Connolly as the cash has seemingly dried up much quicker than expected.
Dennis O’Connor has identified that the lack of fans through the gate as one of the main reasons for the current debacle, but for pretty much every league of Ireland supporter, this was expected. Bray have struggled for a long time with a low-key fan base and giving out big contracts to players like Keith Buckley, Anto Flood, Derek Foran and Aaron Greene; which wasn’t really going to get the fans through the turnstiles.
This situation is a recurring theme within the league, as the FAI struggle to have a clear hold over the financial situation of each club. The powers that be aren’t exactly to blame, but shouldn’t go unpunished either. It’s a sad state for the league this season which has been so exciting up to now, but these constant financially problems have got to stop. Bray are sitting in 3rd and have issued a fire sale of their squad, so with 12 games left; it’s anybody’s guess where they will finish up.
Sligo with a massive win.
Gerard Lyttle got a much needed 3 points on Sunday against Shamrock Rovers thanks to a brilliant Johnny Russel header. Going into the game the Bit O ’Red had dropped into the bottom 3 thanks to St Pats point on Friday so the pressure was on from the get go. Sligo had gone into this one without a win in 7 games and when Neil Doyle blew the full-time whistle, there was a massive sigh of relief around the Showgrounds.
They have room to breathe now as they moved 3 points away from the drop zone. They face Derry City this Sunday before games against Limerick and Drogheda, and Lyttle will look to get at least 5 points from these games. The one big blow in their fight to stay up is they lost key midfielder Kieran Sadlier to Cork, and the manager will have to find a win somewhere to replace him.
Cabinteely losing momentum.
Pat Devlin’s men are so inconsistent this season and have dropped to 6th after losing for the 3rd straight time in a row and now winless in 4 games. Although they are having their best season since becoming a league of Ireland club, manager Devlin will not be happy with the recent form. His side have failed to score in the last 3 games and haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last 5 outings.
They lost out to a late Daniel O’Reilly goal for Longford on Saturday in a game that Devlin might have looked at getting something giving previous results. Cabinteely had taking 4 points from 6 so far against Longford, but their away form remains their Achilles heel. They host promotion chasing Cobh on Friday and will hope they can spoil Stephen Henderson’s plans.
Transfer window is officially open.
This could turn out to be one of the key windows in recent times as clubs look to strengthen their squad to beat the drop or to catch the leaders, and already we have had some significant moves. Cork City have signed Kieran Sadlier from Sligo, while champions Dundalk have secured the signing of Dylan Connolly from Bray as they build for their champions league crusade.
St Pats have signed Killian Brennan and Owen Garvan to add much needed quality to their midfield, as they look to beat the drop. They have also announced that Patrick Cregg has left the club as they clear up the wage budget. Limerick announced the signing of New Zealand international Henry Cameron, while Aaron Dobbs has left Shamrock Rovers on loan, to sign for Wexford.
The situation at Bray has many clubs on high alert, as they look to take some of the best players the Seagulls have to offer. We are just 4 days in, and there is already there is some significant movement from clubs; and it promises to only get better.