Conor Hayes gives us three conclusions from last weekend’s League of Ireland fixtures, in a week that saw Bohemians end their ten month winless run at home.
1. Disappointment but clubs got closer to upsets than most thought possible
So despite great first leg performances from Pat’s and Sligo and a superb away win for Dundalk, Irish interest in European competition is over for another season. All three of those clubs are left with what ifs after their ties ended in defeat.
For Dundalk, they must regret performing so poorly at home, considering they showed their full potential in Split. For Sligo, they must look wistfully at Danny North’s chance with the tie at the Showgrounds still in a state of flux which may have carried them over the line.
Even Pat’s, so soundly hammered at Tallaght will wonder about those spurned openings in Warsaw as well as their rotten luck at having three of their first choice defenders all injured last Wednesday night.
Despite the lingering feeling of a missed opportunity for these teams, each produced a performance in one leg of their tie that far exceeded our expectations. However, the fact our hopes are so low when playing clubs from countries with a similar playing pool to ours speaks volumes.
The league failing to get a representative past July in Europe was not a topic of discussion at our national association’s AGM this week. This might go some way to explaining our pessimism when facing vaunted opposition.
2. The end is near for Croly at Shamrock Rovers
Shamrock Rovers suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to struggling Drogheda on Friday night becoming the first member of the top four to lose at home against someone from outside that top tier. The last minutes of the game were steadily accompanied by ‘We want Croly out’ chants by the home support. This is hardly surprising as the defeat now leaves the club 9 points behind Dundalk in the race for the title.
In 2011 when Rovers qualified for the Europa League group stages and won the title for the second year in a row, their domination of the domestic game looked a certainty. Now in their third season since their annus mirabilis, they may well finish outside of the top three for each of those campaigns. In 2012 they got rid of Stephen Kenny after a disastrous campaign while last year they decided to give Croly time after an equally disappointing title charge. Given what we’ve seen Kenny do at Dundalk, perhaps they have given the wrong man time.
St. Pat’s lie on the same points as Rovers and yet look far more capable of launching a final push for first place. This asssertion doesn’t just come from the fact they won the title last year, it is because they have a clear identity and way of playing that may garner a stunning set of results. They have a plan, Rovers under Croly have no such ideas, no such identity and seem aimless at times despite the talent of their squad. Another season of mediocrity for Shamrock Rovers and while the performances in the cups saved Croly’s job this time last year, it’s hard to see a repeat this time around.
3. Darius Kierans deserves a lot of credit
The other side of that stunning result at Tallaght Stadium was a win for Drogheda who have made a quite remarkable improvement under Darius Kierans stewardship as caretaker manager. Before taking over, the Boynesiders were on a run that defied belief, winning one game in thirteen and shipping hammerings of 7-0, 6-0 twice and 4-1. Since Kierans took the reigns though they have won two out of four games but were much more competitive even in those defeats to Sligo and Cork respectively.
Drogheda hired Damien Richardson over the weekend who will keep on Kierans as his assistant. He can thank his colleague for taking over a team high on confidence rather than the club that limped into the mid-season break with a 6-0 thumping at basement club Athlone.
One more thing…
I always make a conscious effort to keep bias out of this column but I can’t let this week go without congratulating Owen Heary and Bohemians on ending their ten month winless run at home in the league on Friday evening. In classic Bohs fashion they did it by beating Cork, one of the best sides in the league.
Following the club at home for the past two seasons has been a quite miserable experiences at times but with the hoodoo finally lifted, there is a chance for the team to finally play at Dalymount without feeling the pressure of that unwanted record on their backs.
Conor Hayes, Pundit Arena.