At last the SSE Airtricity League is back and there are games and results and tables and incidents and accidents to write about again; it has been a long four and half months waiting for this moment!
Shamrock Rovers and Cabinteely wasted no time in picking up where they had left off in March. This weekend’s 3-1 home win over Finn Harps, coupled with Dundalk’s 1-1 draw against St Patrick’s Athletic, saw The Hoops extend their lead at the top of the Premier Division to six points. They also maintained their 100% start to the season, and now have six straight wins. My conviction back in February was that this year will belong to Shamrock Rovers and I am sticking with it.
In the First Division Pat Devlin’s men also have a 100% record after four games. A fine 2-0 away win in Galway this weekend kept the momentum going after the long lay-off. With the season truncated to 18 games the result effectively edges Cabo one game closer to what would be an historic promotion.
Cork City are in the opposite situation to Rovers, and Sunday’s capitulation at home against Keith Long’s Bohemians, paired with Sligo’s impressive northwest derby win over Derry at The Brandywell, saw The Leesiders sink to the foot of the table. A poor campaign last term saw this column ask the question at one point if Cork were too good to go down; ultimately they stayed up, but will the trapdoor beckon them through this year?
John Sheridan got off to a winning start in his tenure as Waterford manager. I hope John can get Waterford challenging for European honours; as a fan of lower-league soccer in England I am familiar with the impact John has had at some of the clubs he has managed. Shelbourne weren’t at their best for The Blues’ visit and will need to get back into gear quickly if they are to stay out of the relegation quicksand.
The First Division – normally a sure bet for more goals than the Premier – uncharacteristically served up two scoreless draws [Bray Wanderers and Cobh Ramblers at The Carlisle Grounds and UCD against Limerick at Belfield] but four goals from Wexford’s 3-1 win in Athlone and the 2-2 draw between Shamrock Rovers 2 and Drogheda United at least brought the weekend’s tally in the division up to 10, level with the total from the top flight. When Monday night’s goals were added in the First Division edged ahead 16-12.
Talking of Monday night, Bray’s fine 2-0 win away in Longford [a game rearranged from a cancelled fixture March] moved Wanderers into a three-way tie on seven points behind Cabinteely at the top of the First Division. Exciting times ahead!