The SSE Airtricity League has reached the half-way point, which is a good time to have an FAI Cup interval. Strictly speaking it’s only the Premier Division that has reached that milestone; the First Division is still one series of games shy of the landmark. While we’re in the mood for strictly speaking, it must be noted that the half-way point is the half-way point of a season truncated in half, 9 games would be only the quarter-way point in any other year. But that would be splitting hairs.
Last week was certainly an eventful one. All the work that was done to allow 200 people into the grounds was undone by the stroke of a government pen in the face of rising COVID-19 cases. Whilst I’m as anxious as anyone to see the back of COVID-19, I think the government were wrong to target outdoor sporting events. People need the release of going to games, and they were doing this safely. Events that unfolded after the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner would certainly seem to suggest that we are having rules made for us by people who don’t think they apply to themselves.
Last week began with the kerfuffle about John Sheridan’s alleged comments – as brought up by Vinny Perth – on the sidelines during the clash between Waterford and Dundalk at Oriel Park. Onlookers were expecting Sheridan to be sacked but he remains in place and Perth himself has now walked the plank after a poor run of results that included a faltering title challenge and a first-hurdle fall in Europe. Irony? Karma? Whilst I like Perth I do think it was wrong to betray the unwritten code of the touchline, and hearing his comments about what Sheridan is alleged to have said didn’t direct me into the gallery with the masses to spit some bile at Sheridan as he was held up as a convenient hate figure; no, I immediately feared for Perth himself as his outburst seemed to me masking his own issues.
While we’re on the subject of managers, let me take the opportunity to welcome John Caulfield back to the coalface. Galway is a good fit for John – he lives in the area, and is right to come back where there is no immediate pressure – and John is certainly a good fit for Galway. All League of Ireland fans will be delighted to see a manager of John’s calibre return to the fold.
On the field the title would seem to be on its way back to Dublin, specifically Tallaght with an outside chance of Phibsborough. Holding on for a European spot is the challenge facing Dundalk, with a packed midfield of Derry, Pats, Sligo, Waterford and Shelbourne trying to chase them down. At the bottom Finn Harps need to do some chasing down of their own, with Cork the side in their sights.
This weekend saw Cabinteely lose for the first time in the First Division, with a resounding thumping being dealt out to them in their local derby with UCD. This gives hope to the chasing pack of UCD, Bray Wanderers, Drogheda United and Longford. With play-off spots up for grabs for whoever misses out on the top spot, the division will be exciting and competitive right to the end.
So, let’s see what this week brings, as we begin this year’s FAI Cup!