So Finn Harps are up and Dundalk have won the Cup. Congratulations to Ollie Horgan and Stephen Kenny. So ends the story of the 2018 League of Ireland season. The tussle for supremacy between Dundalk and Cork over the last number of years reminds me The Beatles versus The Rolling Stones in the 60’s, or Blur versus Oasis in the 90’s. Not sure which Dundalk are but for this year they are Top of the Pops.
There is actually one game remaining, sort of – the visit of East Fife to Dalymount Park in the Irn BruScottish Challenge Cup quarter-finals. It would be great if Bohemians could make the semi-final, which won’t be played until the spring. The East Fife tie is a game worth going to even if you’re not a Bohemians fan; they’re representing our league and support from other clubs would be a great show of solidarity. I’ve always wanted to see East Fife play anyway!
Talking of going to Dalymount as a neutral, I’ve made a couple of trips there in the latter part of the season just to see how Daniel Kelly is getting on. He’s getting on just fine and has a big future ahead of him. It was a pleasure watching him at Bray earlier in the season, and while we were sorry to see him go we were glad at the same time to see him get an opportunity to play for a club like Bohemians.
Dave Mackey deserves a special mention here for giving Daniel an opportunity to play first team Premier Division football. Dave took over Bray in difficult circumstances after Harry Kenny left at the end of 2017, and although we have since had Graham Kelly, Martin Russell and Gary Cronin in the dugout, it was inevitable that relegation was coming. Nice to see Harry back in club management too with St. Patrick’s Athletic, and Liam Buckley with Sligo Rovers.
I’ve enjoyed the season immensely, despite Bray’s relegation and Shelbourne missing out on promotion; roll on next season, when the sides will meet in the First Division. Shelbourne’s play-off second leg against Drogheda, when they fought all the way to a penalty shootout with just 9 men, was my favourite game of the season out of all the matches I attended.
Ultimately Harps went up and it would be great to see them staying up next year and stabilizing in the top flight. They were a quality side when I saw them at Bray knocking us out of the Cup this year [it felt a bit like revenge for the 1999 final defeat!]. Having Sligo, Derry and Harps all in the Premier Division will be great for that part of the country; plenty of local derbies to spur each other on.
My player of the season would have to be a tie between the above-mentioned Daniel Kelly and James English of Shelbourne. Bray and Shelbourne are the sides I’ve watched most so I’ve limited my choice to these sides. I’m sure you have your own choices for the accolade. The manager that has most impressed me this year in the League has been Keith Long; he really is doing an excellent job at Bohemians and I’d say there is a lot more to come.
It has been a pleasure writing this column every week [sometimes twice weekly] this year. Thanks for all the feedback on the pieces on the web and on the social media feeds. I’m taking a break until the end of the year but will be back in January to count down to the 2019 campaign. Enjoy the close season, however you choose to fill the void, and don’t feel guilty if that is by watching more cross-channel soccer, just so long as you switch your allegiance back when the 2019 campaign kicks off!
Over and out!