It was another topsy-turvy, goal greedy weekend in the league of Ireland with 29 goals across 11 games. Cork City moved just 2 wins closer to the league title, despite losing on Friday night; while Dundalk continued the fight with a 4-0 thumping over Derry City for the 2nd time in a week.
After Derry’s defeat, Shamrock Rovers closed the gap on 3rd to just 2 points, after coming from behind to beat Galway United. The Tribesmen haven’t beaten Shamrock Rovers in their last 28 meetings now and might face them next season as they stay 3 points from safety. Bray Wanderers got their 1st win in 7 as they condemned Drogheda United to yet another league defeat; and Pete Mahon’s side are all but gone now.
Bohemians suffered their 1st league defeat in 3 at Markets Field, as Limerick got a much needed 3 points. St Pats thumped Finn Harps at Inchicore, to move them 3 points above the drop and push their opponents into the drop zone. Sligo Rovers got a much needed and surprising win over Cork on Friday at Turners Cross that lifted them out of the bottom 3. It was the Bit O’ Red 1st win in 8 games, but they have drawn in their last 5 league games.
Waterford picked up another win at the weekend to move closer to the league title as they beat UCD. The Blues can win the title this weekend if results go their way, but its only a matter of time before it’s official. Cobh Ramblers cemented their place in 2nd with an impressive win away to Shelbourne on Friday and with only 10 men. Cabinteely’s run of 6 games without defeat came crashing down on Friday night as Wexford got their 4th win of the season to leapfrog Athlone Town.
The shambles of aforementioned Athlone continued on Saturday as they were trashed 7-1 by a resurgent Longford Town. Neale Fenn got his 3rd league win since been appointed in emphatic style as he continues to claim the fans approval.
So, what have we learned this week?
Just 5 more points for the Rebel Army.
Cork City blitzed through all comers for the 1st half of the season and pretty much claimed the title as early as June – not mathematically but in reality. Despite not playing the best brand of football, John Caulfield has done an excellent job and is finally getting his reward this season with the league title. Having finished 2nd in the last 2 seasons, it’s certainly a case of 3rd time lucky for the Rebel Army as they over power Dundalk.
Cork can be thankful to Sean Maguire, as his 20 goals before heading to Preston North End, spearheaded their incredible lead to the top. They remain 17 points clear, but have struggled in front of a goal since the departure of Maguire, scoring just 4 times in 5 league games. John Caulfield will get away with not replacing Maguire for the remainder of the league season with such a lead, but it might become difficult to retain the FAI Cup without a proper number 9.
The manager knew for a long time that their key man would be moving on and his hope of Achille Campion and Conor Ellis, replacing the goals, has failed. For now, Cork will claim the league title, but they will have a bit of a problem that will need fixing going forward.
The battle to beat the drop.
The only saving grace from the decision of two 10 team leagues next year is that it’s made the relegation battle very interesting. Every week you have 4/5 teams fighting to stay in the premier division and it brings great entertainment. With 3 going down, nobody can take their foot off the gas until it’s officially over.
Drogheda United are all but gone, having failed to win in any of their last 16 league games. Their last win came on the 21st of April away to Finn Harp; but it’s been all downhill since then. They are 10 points from safety with 7 games to play, and have only scored 17 league goals. They are just 2 goals short of UCD’s 19 league goals in the 2008 relegated season and the Drogs know they will need a miracle.
With Drogheda gone, that leaves just 2 places between 5 teams with 7 games to go. Galway United and Finn Harps currently sit in the 2 remaining spots after they both lost at the weekend. Galway let a 1-0 lead slip against Shamrock Rovers in the last 10 minutes that leaves them with just one win in their last 3. Finn Harps faced St Pats on Friday, then Cork last night and lost both without scoring.
Ollie Horgan has done a good job this year to keep Harps away from the drop zone as long as he has, but with suspensions to key players at the wrong time, it might cost them. Paddy McCourt missed Friday’s game through suspension, as did Caolan McAleer; while Eddie Dsane was sent off on Friday night to miss the Cork game. If Harps have any chance of staying up, they must solve their discipline issue first.
Sligo Rovers win on Friday moved them out of the drop zone to continue their unbeaten run. Gerard Lyttle hasn’t exactly set the Showground’s alight since been appointed, but this is a massive 3 points. St Pats used the transfer window to perfection as the signings of Jordi Balk and Killian Brennan has helped them steer away from the drop zone. The Saints are unbeaten in their last 5 league games winning 4 of them, but they are still just 3 points from the relegation spots.
Limerick are right in the thick of it, despite getting a much needed win over Bohemians at the weekend. It was their 1st win in 6 games and they are now just 4 points away from the drop zone. Bohs are sitting in 6th and are 6 points clear from any relegation and should be safe for this season.
There is plenty more drama to come over the next few weeks, and when the league returns after this weekend’s FAI Cup, we have some cracking games. Bohs host Galway in what will be a must win for the Tribesmen. Limerick host Finn Harps in what will be a massive 6 pointer. St Pats face the daunting task of Oriel park and the current league champions, while Sligo have played a game more and have an extra week’s rest.
Athlone Town and Roddy
After early season match fixing allegations, Athlone Town are still under investigation so you have to look twice at all their results. This weekend seen them play in their local derby against Longford, and they were crushed 7-1. In fact they were 3-0 down after just 13 minutes which tells you how much of a shambles the club is at the moment.
They made the decision to give Roddy Collins the job for the 2nd time after he left in 2013. He had just 2 subs on the bench for the weekend game and 1 of those was a goalkeeper. Roddy is better at been outspoken than coaching, and that has been proven as he has failed to win any of his 12 league matches since taking charge. He has however won in the FAI Cup against non-league opposition, and now faces a trip to Cork City this weekend.
It remains to be seen if he will stay on next season and if he does he will have a the full off season in charge of the club. He will look to bring in his players if the funds are available to him and to be quite honest – they need to be. 2017 will be a season that Athlone must wipe from their history and the season isn’t over yet.
Image Credit: RTE