International football may have taken top billing this weekend, but this was still a significant weekend in the League of Ireland.
On a week in which Irish football said goodbye to a true stalwart in Derry City captain Ryan McBride, domestic football resumed on a sombre note on Saturday afternoon.
Nonetheless, Cork City laid down a huge marker to title rivals Dundalk with a crucial win against the Lilywhites at a sold-out Turners Cross, while Shamrock Rovers found new ways to erode positivity from their season, and Bray Wanderers finally discovered what a low-scoring game looks like.
Where else to start but the league leaders. John Caulfield’s Cork City moved six points clear at the top with a 2-1 win against Dundalk at Turners Cross, thanks to two fist half strikes from Karl Sheppard. The home side showed brilliant counter-attacking to put themselves in front against the run of play after 20 minutes, and from there on in there was only going to be one winner. Early days yet, but it looks like this City side will take some stopping.
Just when it looked as though City were starting to get a bit too reliant on Sean Maguire, up pops Sheppard with a matchwinning double. Maguire may have had a big hand in the first goal, but in a side that needs goals to come not just from one striker, Saturday was the perfect display of a team that can be deadly from multiple points.
St. Patrick’s Athletic
Where a fifth defeat in six would have seen the crisis at Richmond Park increase in size, instead the picture is starting to look a bit more rosy for St. Pat’s. They aren’t out of the woods by any means, but the confidence gleaned from their 2-1 win against Shamrock Rovers, especially having gone a goal down, could be vital. Their trip to Bohemians on Friday will be interesting.
By God, did he need that. Buckley’s position was looking on increasingly shaky ground after a wretched start to the season but his St. Pat’s side defied expectations to beat Shamrock Rovers and move off the bottom of the table. Whether it turns out to be the catalyst for a revival or merely a stay of execution remains to be seen.
No Akinade, no Corcoran, no problem. Bohs responded to their second big forward setback by winning at Drogheda United, with Daniel Byrne taking up goalscoring duties. How they deal with the extended loss of their two main goalscorers will be interesting but for now, they’re up to fourth and things are looking good.
Tipped for relegation, sitting well in midtable. It’s a long season, but Ollie Horgan can be very pleased with his men so far this season and a 2-1 win at home to Sligo is massive for their confidence.
One win in seven now against Cork City after Saturday’s defeat. They now sit six points behind their biggest rivals and while that is in now an insurmountable gap with the season still in its infancy, the psychological edge that they have had over City over the past few years seems to be eroding.
A needless sending off at an important time in the match. Not to suggest that Kilduff’s sending off cost Dundalk a point, but it certainly made the last five minutes that bit more comfortable for Cork City.
Dundalk’s Goalkeeping Problems
Gary Rogers was preferred in goal to Gabriel Sava for the match on Saturday, but failed to justify Stephen Kenny’s confidence in him with an error for Sheppard’s second. Coupled with Sava’s poor showing against Derry, both Dundalk goalkeepers have given Kenny a serious problem, one that should have been addressed in the winter.
Stephen Bradley can point to the fact that three of his side’s opening five matches were against title rivals, but that doesn’t excuse losing matches like this one. Rovers can hardly continue to call themselves title contenders with a run of two wins from their opening six, and the manner in which they lost to the league’s bottom side speaks volumes about where they are as a team. And where they are right now is twelve points behind the top and two above the relegation zone.
This is what happens when the great entertainers fail to entertain. Goals (at both ends) normally come with the territory in Bray Wanderers games, and when there is finally a clean sheet in one it didn’t go the home side’s way. A 1-0 defeat to Limerick at the Carlisle Grounds typifies exactly how frustrating Harry Kenny’s men are going to be this season.