The First Division ended on Saturday [bar the play-offs] in much the same way as it has conducted itself all season – in a blaze of goals. The ball hit the net a whopping 23 times in the five games [with every side bar Limerick scoring], for an impressive goals-per-game ratio of 4.6 on the night. This was in stark contrast to the previous night’s action in the Premier Division, where only three goals were scored across all the matches; indeed only Sligo Rovers and Dundalk found the net and the eight other sides fired blanks.
The final-day feast in the First Division helped nudge the regular season’s final goals-per-game ratio in that division up from 2.8 to 2.9, with 392 goals in 135 games [the Premier Division goal statistics currently stand at 375 goals in 158 games, for a ratio of 2.4, with 22 matches remaining]. Bar a scoring miracle, the First Division will lift The Interdivisional Goals-Per-Game Ratio Cup this term [OK, it’s a metaphorical trophy, but they all count!].
Shelbourne were in celebratory mood at a packed and electric Tolka Park and put seven past a hapless Limerick. Manchester City had thumped Watford 8-0 earlier in the day and Ian Morris’ men almost emulated Pep Guardiola’s. The clean sheet for Dean Delany, who was playing his last match before retirement, added to the festivities on the night that included the presentation of the First Division trophy to the champions.
Drogheda, Longford and Cabinteely must now prepare for the play-offs. I’m a fan of the expanded play-off suite of games, which would see Longford or Cabinteely play up to six more games if they were to ultimately achieve promotion. It makes sense to spread the games out through October, given that the Premier Division will still be ongoing, providing the relegation play-off team [most likely to be Finn Harps] with preparative game time.
Cabinteely have been impressive all year. They have hung around the top positions throughout, losing only five matches all season, a figure bettered by nobody in the division and equalled only by champions Shelbourne. I’d love to see Pat Devlin pull off another promotion; it would be a well-deserved late-career highlight for the AirtricityLeague’s longest-active manager.
I’m a fan of Devlin’s from his time at Bray and as for Bray themselves this season has been a decent one. We are back on a stable footing on and off the pitch and suitably placed to push on next year for a play-off spot. The feel-good factor is back [for the first time since Devlin’s departure in 2013] and the club seems to have regained its heart and soul.