Every week the league of Ireland throws up surprises and this week was no different as Bohemians condemned Cork City to their 1st league defeat of the season. It finished off a stunning weekend for Keith Long’s men as they beat Shamrock Rovers on Friday. Dundalk failed to win for the 2nd game in a row as they were held by Sligo Rovers. Despite Cork’s defeat, the champions are still 17 points adrift of John Caulfield’s men who have a game in hand.
Derry City have one hand on 3rd spot after they eased past Limerick on Sunday to make it 3 wins in a row for the first time since the start of the season. It’s also the first time since last August that the Candystripes have kept 3 consecutive clean sheets in the league. Shamrock Rovers lost for the 2nd time in 3 games and are now 5 points adrift of Derry, who they play this Friday.
The shambles off the field for Bray Wanderers continued last week and Harry Kenny’s men could not put that to the back of their mind as they were beaten at home by Finn Harps. It’s the Seagulls 4th defeat in a row that has seen them drop to 5th and with the future of the club still up in the air, the free fall will continue.
It was a massive win for Finn Harps however and it was their 3rd in the last 4 games and are now 4 points above the drop with a game in hand. It’s been a remarkable season from Ollie Horgan, who’s signing of Pat McCourt has been the catalyst of their good season. St Pats made it 3 league wins in a row for the first time since March of last year and have now moved 4 points away from the relegation spots.
Limerick haven’t won in 3 league games and have dropped to 7th as new manager Neil McDonald is yet to have any real effect on his new side. Galway were unlucky not to get anything in Cork as the Rebel Army came from behind to win while Drogheda United remain rooted to the bottom as their defeat to St Pats leaves them without a win in 14 games.
Waterford continued their run towards the first division title as they swept aside Athlone to remain 9 points clear. Cobh Ramblers kept some pressure on the leaders as they beat Wexford 2-0 while UCD lost 2nd spot as they were beaten by Cabinteely. It was the first time that Cabinteely had beaten their rivals UCD as they moved into 4th.
Shelbourne stopped a 2-game losing streak as they beat Longford Town at the City Calling Stadium 3-1, who have now won just once in their last 4 games.
So, what have we learned this week?
For the first time since July 2014 Bohemians managed a victory over Cork City and a win that moved them to within just 3 points of a European place. Before a ball was kicked on Friday, Bohs were in a relegation scrap but after the final whistle blew on Monday night, they are in touching distance of 4th. It just shows you how tight and competitive this league really is.
A lot of the credit for the weekends results must go to manager, Keith Long as he showed brilliant squad management to get the maximum points. He made 5 changes for Friday’s win over Shamrock Rovers and made 5 more for last night’s trip to Cork and it paid dividends. Having Ismael Akinade back fit has giving Bohs a new lease of life as he scored and assisted twice of the 3 goals that Long’s side scored over the weekend. They face Bray on Friday who are in free fall, and another win would see Bohs jump into 5th.
A lot of people always felt that the sacking of Marin Russell was quite a strange one after last season’s run to the first division title. He didn’t exactly have the full backing of the board or most of the fans but in truth he was getting the job done. He was showing the door in April after just 6 games in which he picked up 7 points. Not a great return but with just 6 games gone there was plenty of time to fix any problems.
Willie Boland became caretaker manager until the permanent appointment of former Blackpool manager Neil McDonald. The Englishman came in with Limerick sitting in 6th position but most recently they have dropped to 7th. Of his 10 games in charge, McDonald has won just 4 times while only keeping 2 clean sheets. In the transfer window, he has let go Robbie Williams, Paul O’Connor and Ian Turner who had a combined 48 appearances between them but they have yet to be replaced.
With the window now shut, McDonald must look across the water if he has any plans to get reinforcements in. Depending on results, Limerick could find themselves sitting just above the relegation spots this weekend, so a big performance is needed when they travel to Oriel Park to take on the champions.
Before the European games started, Shamrock Rovers had only lost once in 6 games but since flying to Iceland and then Czech Republic, they have lost 2 of their next 3. With their Europa League season over for another year at least, they must get back to basics and keep their eye on the battle for 3rd. Friday seen them lose to rivals Bohemians at home in a game manager Stephen Bradley would have identified as 3 points.
This wasn’t to be, as Rovers defensive frailties struck again. Midfielder Sam Bone, who was used as a centre back, gave the ball away while been groggy from an earlier head clash, which led to the winner for Dinny Corcoran. The Hoops rear-guard is nowhere near the level it would need to be if they are to challenge Cork and Dundalk. In 23 league games, Bradley’s men have kept just 6 clean sheets and conceded 31 times.
The squad is an exciting one but it’s also a very unbalanced one and Bradley will be hoping the signing of central defender Lee Grace from Galway, will shore things up at the back. Going forward is no problem for Rovers as they have only failed to score just once in the league this year but if they can fix the problems at the back, they can put some pressure on the top 3.
Waterford in touching distance.
There is just 18 points left to play for and Waterford have a 9-point lead so the title is all set for the Blues, barring an unlikely collapse. From the get go, Waterford were overwhelming favourites to take the first division title thanks to the money invested in the club and they have delivered. Just 3 more wins is needed for the club that has signed players like Paul Keegan, Kenny Browne, David McDaid and most recently Paddy Barret from Dundalk, which tells how much quality they have in their squad.
The first part of this project for Pat Fenlon and manager Alan Reynolds is nearing completion as they will be a premier division club next season. They have had that bit of quality to see out games that challengers Cobh Ramblers and UCD don’t have in their squad. The Blues have the best attack and best defence while they are on a 5-match unbeaten run. They travel to high flying Cabinteely this weekend looking to claim another 3 points.
Image Credit: RTE.ie