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Advantage Drogheda going into the last game of the First Division

 

In a First Division season full of twists and turns, Saturday saw yet another changing of the guard at the top of the table. Drogheda were fancied to beat bottom-of-the-table Wexford at United Park and they duly obliged with a 2-0 victory. Bray Wanderers on the other hand slipped up against Galway, allowing the Louth side to leap-frog them to pole position with just one game to go.

Saturday at three o’clock had seen me in an unusual football multitasking position. It’s not often that Bray Wanderers and Rochdale play at exactly the same time, so I was following both games on adjacent tablet screens [actually I was triple-tasking, because I had Gilette Soccer Saturday on silent on the television as well]. The blow of Bray’s loss was at least softened by a fine Rochdale away win at Shrewsbury Town.

It could and should have been so different for Bray. The sun was shining on the Carlisle Grounds for most of the game and an online audience from as far afield as Japan, Uganda, USA and Sweden had tuned in to the club’s live broadcast on their Facebook page. Wanderers edged the possession. Chances were created but not taken. A late sucker-punch goal from John Caulfield’s men was always a possibility, and was duly delivered right at the death.

So it all comes down to Tuesday’s round of games. If Drogheda win away in Cabinteely then they are promoted to the 2021 SSE Airtricity League Premier Division no matter what Bray do. If United fail to win and Bray do in Athlone then it will be The Seagulls who will be going up automatically. A knife-edge finish to a campaign that has packed more of thrills and spills into its 17 rounds of matches to date than many a 36-game season has in times past.

What will Tuesday bring? It is impossible to call. Bray can’t assume they will win in Athlone, who will want to finish the season on a high note. Drogheda will have their work cut out in Stradbrook against a Cabinteely side who are still in with a shout of the play-offs themselves. Add in the fact that Cabinteely’s manager is Bray legend Pat Devlin and you add an extra ingredient of intrigue into the last-day cauldron.

The only certainty in the First Division is that Wexford will finish bottom. Either Bray or Drogheda could finish top, with the side losing out entering the play-offs with any two from UCD, Longford, Cabinteely, Galway or Cobh. Talk about taking things right down to the wire!

Brian Quigley

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