Just one week in and we’ve already had some major shocks across the League of Ireland Premier Division, with potentially a few more to look forward to this weekend.
The pick of the bunch last Friday night, the Dublin derby between Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians, failed to disappoint with four goals being scored as Bohs won 3-1 having gone a goal behind.
Champions Cork City began their title defence in another high-scoring game away to St. Pat’s. Having gone two goals ahead, Graham Cummins’ sending off for what looked an innocuous attempt to win a header swung the game with Pat’s getting two back before Kieran Sadlier netted the winner late on directly from a corner kick.
Elsewhere, new boys Waterford beat Derry City 2-1, Limerick edged past Sligo Rovers and Dundalk and Bray played out a scoreless draw.
The level of interest in the league for the opening weekend appears to be up on last year and the hope now is that the positivity currently engulfing domestic football can be translated to the second weekend, particularly with the First Division kicking off too.
Friday, February 23
Bray Wanderers vs St. Patrick’s Athletic
Despite St. Pat’s losing their opening game to Cork City, their spirit to draw level and put the champions under sustained pressure for most of the game will give Liam Buckley’s men as much confidence as Bray following their somewhat surprising draw with Dundalk at Oriel Park.
The result will, of course, be a worry for the Saints in terms of how easily they were cut open (twice in eleven minutes), however, they rallied quickly and do look that bit more mentally robust than last term, when their heads dropped a little too easily at times.
They come up against a Bray side which showed some superb stubbornness to earn a point away to a notoriously potent attacking side in Dundalk.
New Seagulls boss Dave Mackey, well-known for his defensive abilities as a player, has obviously parted some of his vast knowledge onto his players.
While Pat’s won’t be deemed as much of a threat, they illustrated on Friday they’re well capable of tearing teams apart so it won’t get any easier for Bray on Friday night.
Prediction: Bray Wanderers 1-2 St. Pat’s
Cork City vs Waterford
With both sides having begun their campaigns successfully with wins over St. Pat’s and Derry City respectively the Munster rivals come into this one with plenty of momentum behind them.
The word momentum probably applies that bit more to Cork City, however, who now have two wins in a row under their belt following a comeback win against Dundalk in the President’s Cup and a gritty victory over St. Pat’s.
City were pegged back for the majority of last week’s game in Inchicore thanks to a ridiculous decision which saw Graham Cummins shown a straight red card and his absence will be keenly felt against Waterford too with City having to turn to other options for their attacking focal point. Karl Sheppard is the likely candidate following his outstanding running on Friday, meaning City’s new loan signing – Preston’s Michael Howard – could be thrown in at the deep end on either side of the 27-year-old.
Alan Reynolds has amassed a hugely talented squad and will be hoping that former City players Gavan Holohan, Kenny Browne, as well as new signings Bastien Hery and Dave Webster, put in the same kind of performances they did last weekend to pick up three points.
With Aaron Barry and Alan Bennett still to gel at the back for the Leesiders, Ismahil Akinade’s pace and finishing ability will test the new City centre-back pairing during their first game together at Turner’s Cross.
Cork City 2-0 Waterford
Sligo Rovers vs Derry City
The north-west derby pits two clubs in need of a win against each other after they both lost their opening games to Limerick and Waterford respectively.
Sligo, in particular, will feel the sting of that defeat, knowing Limerick are a side they’re well capable of beating given the players they have at their disposal now.
The concession of goals should, however, be reduced in time with the arrival of robust defender Patrick McClean, who joins from Waterford. Having previously played with his hometown club Derry City this could be an interesting subplot to proceedings should James McClean’s younger brother start.
Derry, meanwhile, can take some positives away from their trip to Waterford on the opening night – one of them being new man Armin Aganovic netting from a set-piece, which could become a familiar theme throughout the year.
Sligo Rovers 0-1 Derry City
Shamrock Rovers vs Dundalk
Once again both teams come into this one looking to register their first win of the campaign.
Dundalk will have been disappointed with their 0-0 draw at home to Bray last Friday as Dave Mackey’s men simply shut the Lilywhites’ best attacking players down. Given the level of investment in the final third, however, it is an early worry for Stephen Kenny.
While alarm bells may not be ringing quite yet at the Louth club, they will certainly be in Tallaght if another heavy defeat is inflicted here.
The Hoops went ahead against their bitter Dublin rivals last weekend, but in a similar vein to 2017, holding onto the lead was their Achilles heel as they were hit for three in twelve minutes.
If there was a game this weekend where goals were guaranteed you’d imagine it will be south Dublin.
Shamrock Rovers 0-2 Dundalk
Saturday, February 24
Limerick vs Bohemians
These two clubs have both been touted for very different things this term, with Bohs expected to challenge the top half while Limerick are down as a relegation candidate. However, after one week the Dublin outfit are top of the league on goal difference while the Shannonsiders take up fourth place.
This is undoubtedly going to change but it is at least a positive start for two clubs decimated by departures over the winter, with Chiedozie Ogbene, Bastien Hery and Barry Cotter leaving Limerick while Bohs were left depleted with Fuad Sule, Warren O’Hora and Akinade moving on to full-time football.
The likely result here is a stalemate but if one of the two can claim victory they will stay near the upper echelons of the table that bit longer than most will be expecting them to.
Limerick 0-0 Bohemians
In this week’s episode of the Mixer Irish football podcast, we look back at last week’s season-opening Dublin derby and debate Graham Cummins’ controversial red card as we review and preview all of the latest League of Ireland action.