The walk down to Tolka Park on Friday night to see Shelbourne take on Galway United gave my son Blaise and myself time to catch up with the good, the bad and the everything else of the week’s football.
The good had been Bray Wanderers’ marvellous win over Shamrock Rovers on the Monday in the Carlisle Grounds. They talk about the first 100 days in office for politiciansbeing a tough test, but Graham Kelly’s first 100 hours in charge of Bray had seen his side match Dundalk only to lose narrowly, deservedly beat Rovers having been the better team and travel to high-flying Waterford [Bray lost, but put in another decent performance according to the reports I read]. Things can only get easier – they have the luxury of a full week to prepare for the next game and hopefully three points can be won when Limerick visit this coming Friday.
The bad had been the two hours we had wasted the previous Sunday going out to watch Manchester United against West Bromwich Albion. We both like United but I’ve rarely seen such a poor game of football. Jose Mourinho seemed to have forgotten the vital role a midfield can play in soccer, and that after assembling a squad with some very talented and expensive midfield players. Perhaps his research has shown him that the opposition are most likely to score against him if they get the ball in midfield, so he decided to bypass that area of the pitch altogether. He still lost the game.
The pick of the everything else of the week’s soccer was Accrington Stanley’s promotion to the third tier in Englandfor the first time since 1960. Blaise had seen the celebrations on Sky Sports News the next day and I’d taken the opportunity to tell him that John Coleman, the Stanley manager, had spent a short time managing in Ireland with Sligo Rovers, and that Stanley’s Seamus Conneely had played for both Galway United and Sligo before moving to Lancashire. I also took the opportunity to show him the famous ‘’Accrington Stanley? Who are they?!’’ Ian Rush milk advert from the 1980’s. The boy in the ad is about his age and he watched it over and over.
The sound of music in the distance told us we were almost at Tolka Park. ‘’Sailing On The Seven Seas’’ by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark was playing. One of my favourite bands. This was actually their highest-ever charting single in England, despite coming out in 1991, more than a decade after their heyday. The lyrics make reference to two iconic bands – The Velvet Underground and The Who – and I saw the band play this live in the National Stadium when they toured Ireland the following year. I must dust down and play the album it came from – it was called ‘’Sugar Tax’’ and that’s exactly what this country is getting from May 1st.
When the teams came out Blaise pointed out that Shelbourne’s home jersey was ‘’just like Accrington Stanley’s’’. The Reds started the game brightly and were creating enough chances to suggest it was only a matter of when not if they would score. When Alan Byrne came up for a set-piece just before half time and skilfully got on the end of the incoming ball to score it was no more than he and Shelbourne deserved. What a great all-round player he is – safe and solid as a defender, dangerous when he comes forward.
At half-time Blaise wanted a drink of milk. I thought he was taking the Accrington Stanley thing a bit too far. He drinks gallons of the stuff at home so I persuaded him to get a Lucozade instead. I got one each, but after the Sugar Tax comes in it might be time to just buy one and share!
We were treated to a couple of Elvis tunes during the break. ‘’Suspicious Minds’’, which was skilfully covered in the 1980’s by Fine Young Cannibals, and ‘’It’s Now Or Never’’ which came out way back in 1960, when The King was still in the US Army [and Accrington Stanley were last in the English third tier].
It was more of the same in the second period, with Shelbourne looking more like extending their lead than Galway didequalizing. When the second goal did arrive it was a close-range David O’Sullivan effort, his tenth in the First Division this year and from just eight games. He’s on course to win his third First Division Golden Boot award, following on from winning the award in 2013 and 2014 with Longford Town.The King of Goals.
Friday’s win saw Shelbourne climb to the top of the table on the night to complete a good week for the club, with the confirmed news of the new CEO during the week. Drogheda away this weekend will certainly be a real test and will go some way towards determining if they can stay at the top as the season progresses.
David O’Sullivan aside, the First Division is a happy hunting ground for goalscorers this term. After Friday’s games [which had seen Wexford put 7 past Athlone] the division had seen 126 goals in 38 matches, a goals-per-game ratio of 3.3 [outpacing the Premier Division, which had seen 152 goals in 60 matches up to Friday for a ratio of 2.5].
After supper [a glass of milk] I put Blaise to bed. He wanted to know what game we were going to next. I told him we’d be getting to 2 games this week – Shelbourne against Drogheda in the EA Sports Cup on Tuesday, and Bray versus Limerick on Friday in the Premier Division. There was time for one more question before he nodded off – ‘’Do you think David O’Sullivan drinks lots of milk, Dad?’’.