The league of Ireland returned with a bang this weekend as 20 goals where scored across 8 games. We also seen both league leaders Cork City and Waterford stumble towards the finish line after failing to win again. Outgoing champions Dundalk kept the pressure on as they hit 10 man St Pats for 6 at Oriel Park.
Shamrock Rovers kept their excellent run of form going as they eased past Cork in Tallaght to move back into 3rd. An entertaining and chance infested game between Bohemians and Galway finished 1-1, which only helps the Dublin side. Galway remain 2nd bottom and are 4 points from safety. Limerick goalkeeper, Brendan Clarke gifted all 3 points to Finn Harps after some horrific goalkeeping which puts the promoted side deep in the relegation fight.
Waterford failed to beat Shelbourne at home and must keep the champagne on ice for another week. Cobh Ramblers kept their excellent season going when they beat Athlone Town away from home, to cut the gap at the top to just 5 points. UCD beat Wexford to all but consolidate their 3rd place finish.
Neale Fenn excellent spell in charge of Longford Town continued on Friday night as they beat Cabinteely 2-0 which leapfrogged them into 4th. The Town have been on an excellent run recently and have also made the FAI Cup quarter finals against Cork. The new manager is certainly impressing us and will have an eye on promotion next season.
So, what have we learned this week?
The foot is well and truly off the gas for Cork.
Having blitzed through the entire league for pretty much most of the season, Cork have taking their foot of the gas in recent weeks. Their average form is no surprise given it started around the same time as Sean Maguire left for Preston North End. The Leesiders top scorer was in terrific form throughout the season and helped his side to claim an 18 point lead at the top.
It’s hard to maintain a certainly level of form throughout a whole season, but Cork’s fall is rapid and it’s simply down to the poor planning from the management team. They knew for sometime they were going to lose out with the leave of Maguire, but failed to find an adequate replacement. Yes they will still go onto win the league given the massive point difference after Dundalk’s early season poor form; but it’s simply not good enough.
Cork have won just 2 of their last 5 league games and have scored just 3 times. They didn’t look anything like champions elect on Friday as Shamrock Rovers eased to take the win. Cork fans will be thankful to Sean Maguire and Dundalk’s early season form that will see them claim the title, but will certainly not be happy with recent performances they’ve put on.
Welcome to the dog fight, Limerick.
It was only a matter of time before first divisions champions Limerick where dragged into the relegation fight. They have won just once in their last 7 league games scoring just 2 goals. Manager Neil McDonald decided to off load Paul O’Conor and Robbie Williams without really replacing them, and might just live to regret that. Joe Crowe has started every game since his arrival from Norwich but is yet to make a significant mark. He played a role in Finn Harps 1st goal on Friday night in a mix up at the back with Brendan Clarke which led to Harps taking all 3 points.
They do however have a bit of quality that should help them keep away from the drop. Rodrigo Tosi is having a good 1st season in Ireland and although he missed a penalty on Friday night, he has scored 11 times this season. French born Bastien Hery looks a really strong player in midfield, while Chiedozie Ogbene’s ridiculous pace will trouble any back line. They do have the experience of Lee J Lynch and Shane Duggan in midfield to steer them away from the drop, but it’s keeping the door shut is where the problem lies.
Finn Harps not going away.
Pre-season relegation favourites have continued to silence their doubters as they sit in 9th, which leaves them 2 points clear of the drop with 6 games in hand. The eccentric Ollie Horgan is having a really good season and Friday night’s win away to Limerick was a massive 3 points for them. The Ballybofey side had yet another man sent off in Killian Cantwell but it didn’t prove a costly loss.
They have seen 3 players sent off in their last 5 league games so discipline is something they will have to fix if they are to stay in the top flight. Finn Harps have 3 home games from their remaining 6 fixtures. Sligo Rovers, Dundalk and Drogheda United all must make the trip north and Horgan will certainly aim for 6 points. They however must travel to Dublin twice and face a trip to rivals Derry City in between, so lots of work still to do for Horgan and co.
Waterford in touching distance.
Waterford’s early season form is similar to Cork City and have 1 hand on the title. With their excellent squad put together, they were overwhelming favourites for the title and are just 1 win from making that happen. They drew at the weekend against Shels at the RSC in a repeat of the FAI Cup match from 3 weeks ago; but they failed to get revenge.
Aaron Drinan grabbed the equaliser just after the break, which leaves Waterford 5 points clear with 9 left to play for. Waterford travel to Wexford in their next game in which a game they will surely wrap up the title and promotion. They do face Cobh Ramblers on the last day of the season and for the neutrals having the the title decided on that day would be something special. Manager Alan Reynolds however will want to wrap it up, much sooner than that.