It was a weekend that gave us 25 goals in 10 games, 1 scoreless draw, a sublime hat trick and both divisions have all but confirmed new champions. Cork City had no game so it was a chance for Dundalk to continue the pressure on the leaders. The champions had won 5 straight league games scoring 16 goals and conceding none but came unstuck at home to Shamrock Rovers on Sunday thanks to a mistake by Brian Gartland. The 1-0 defeat leaves Stephen Kenny’s men 15 points behind Cork and have also played 2 games more.
That win for Shamrock Rovers moved them into 3rd but only until last night as Derry City scored 2 late goals to win the derby against Finn Harps. It was an excellent weekend for the Candystripes as they travelled to Dublin on Friday where they got all 3 points at Dalymount Park. It was the first time since March that Derry managed back to back wins in the league and its come at the right time.
Bray Wanderers grip on 3rd has slipped away as they were well beaten on Friday night by a resurgent St Pats and have now dropped to 5th. Harry Kenny’s excellent job on the pitch is been undone by those off it and it doesn’t like it will become any easier as the players still await confirmation of who is playing their wages. Limerick continue to sit in mid table as they couldn’t find a way past Sligo at Markets Field. Neil McDonald hasn’t exactly set the town alight since his appointment as last year’s 1st division champions have won just 1 of their last 5 league games and could be pulled into the relegation battle.
Having gone 4 games unbeaten, Bohemians were on the rise but they have now lost their last 3 matches and are just 4 points from the drop zone. Another defeat for Keith Long this weekend against rivals Shamrock Rovers and results going against them in the other games, will have the pressure cooker turned up on him, so a result is a must on Friday night.
Galway impressively put basement side Drogheda United to the sword on Friday thanks to an outstanding hat trick from Gavin Holohan. The win put Galway up to 10th and just 1 point from safety. Sligo could only manage a point away to Limerick as they continue to struggle while St Pats 2nd win on the bounce has them out of the drop zone.
Waterford all but claimed the first division title as they crushed injury stricken Cobh Ramblers 4-0 at the RSC. The win moves them 9 points clear with 7 games to play and its highly unlikely they will lose 3 games over the remainder of the season. UCD leaped frogged Cobh into 2nd as they also scored 4 times in a straightforward win over Athlone.
Since the appointment of Roddy Collins, Athlone have failed to win, which is a run of 10 games. In 21 games, they have conceded 53 goals, which is the highest of all 20 league of Ireland teams. Longford grabbed all 3 points away to Wexford which was only their 2nd away win of the season. Cabinteely scored late into injury time to condemn Shelbourne to a 2nd straight defeat as Pat Devlin side moved into 5th place.
So, what have we learned this week?
Sligo slip further behind.
Gerard Lyttle hasn’t exactly had the affect a new manger makes at a club and the former Cliftonville manager has picked up just 2 wins since his appointment. A run of 2 wins in 14 games is the reason why Sligo are sitting in 11th place and really fighting for their lives. Their most influential player Kieran Sadlier, has opted for pastures new as he moved to Cork City, so the pressure is now mounting on Lyttle to find quality elsewhere to guide them to safety.
The Bit O’ Red have 10 draws this season, which is the same as Galway but their defence is their achilles heel as they have conceded 37 times (2nd highest) and have kept just 5 clean sheets. Some good news for Sligo fans is that their next 3 games are at home where they host Dundalk, St Pats and then Bray were the manager will be aiming for at least 4 points. Failure to get anything in these 3 games could see their premier division status taking away.
The Saints on the march.
The boo boys seem to have slipped away, the cracks have been filled and calls for ‘manager out’ have evaporated, for now. Having gone 8 games without a win and stuck in the bottom 3, St Pats were low on confidence and couldn’t find a win. Manager Liam Buckley however, went shopping and secured the acquisition of Dutch defender Jordi Balk, Owen Garvan And Killian Brennan. All 3 players made their debut in the friendly win over Hearts as Buckley builds to avoid the drop.
Owen Garvan was sent off in his league debut against Cork but the difference Balk and Brennan have made to a side that couldn’t control a game, has been massive. The 2013 league champions have won 2 games on the spin where they had to come from behind in both and against 2 of the top 5 sides. This weekend seen them punish Bray from start to finish as they played football with excellent confidence and hunger. Liam Buckley will know they are not by any means safe but their next 3 games see them face teams around them. They travel to Drogheda, then Sligo before hosting Finn Harps and the squad will know that 7 points from 9 will ease the pressure of the drop.
Big win for the Hoops.
Having been soundly beaten in Europe in mid-week, Shamrock Rovers faced a daunting opposition in Dundalk at Oriel Park on Sunday but rather surprisingly came away with a 1-0 win. It was the Hoops 3rd league win in their last 4 games as manager Stephen Bradley has eased early season pressure to make a fight for that 3rd spot. The Hoops are on a good run at the moment as they have lost just 3 of their last 11 league games and Bradley will be hoping that will continue for the remainder of the season.
Goals don’t seem to be a problem for Rovers as they have only failed to score on 2 occasions this season but its their weak defensive line that could stop them getting a 3rd place finish. They have kept just 6 clean sheet this year and have had to rely on the eccentric Tomer Chencinski to save them including this weekend. It’s a position the manager will look to strengthen before the transfer deadline next week and if he is to have any aspirations of a top 3 finish, he will need to. They host Bohemians this weekend before the big battle for 3rd against Derry City, 2 games that will certainly test this Rovers backline.
Cabinteely impressive season continues.
It’s been by far their best season since becoming a league of Ireland club as they have surpassed their points tally and have more wins than previous years. Pat Devlin’s side picked up another 3 points deep into stoppage time at home to Shelbourne on Friday in what was only their 2nd ever win over their opponents.
Kieran Marty Waters has been an excellent signing for Devlin and has found the target 9 times this season. The former Bray manager has also added to his attacking ranks with the signings of former Drogheda United player Gareth McCaffery and former UCD attacker Ryan Swan. With just 7 games to go and sitting on same number of points as 4th place Longford, there is no reason with some consistency that Cabinteely can claim an excellent a top 4 finish.