Dundalk’s title challenge took a hit last night while Cork City’s was given one of the biggest shots in the arm it has received all season due to to Shamrock Rovers holding the champions elect to a goalless draw.
The Rebel Army and the Lilywhites face-off on the final day of the season and it looks more and more likely as though that night on the 24th of October will be the night when the Premier Division title will be decided.
Here are five talking points inspired by last night’s events.
Momentum has shifted
Before this game many would have said it was a foregone conclusion that the Lilywhites would run away with the title but Shamrock Rovers have thrown a massive spanner in the works of that ambition.
The momentum is now firmly with Cork City who will take solace from the fact that Dundalk’s race for the title has received so such damage. John Caulfield’s men now have their destiny in their own hands, and with just two games to go.
For Dundalk it is the same scenario, knowing they just need to win their final two games and they will be crowned Premier Division champions. However, last night’s result is sure to put a certain amount of doubt in their minds about the outcome of their final two games.
Bray Wanderers and Bohemians games take on a whole new meaning
The two games preceding what is now likely to be a title showdown at Oriel Park on the 24th of October are Cork City at home to Bohemians and Dundalk away to Bray Wanderers next Friday night.
These games will now take on a completely new perspective due to last night’s deadlock. If Dundalk had won last night the Bray game would be considered a formality but there will be extra pressure on the Lilywhites going into this game now; psychologically more than anything else.
If there is to be anything else though, it will be the fact that Bray still need another point to secure safety from the play-offs as they are just five points above UCD with two games remaining for both sides, which is sure to add an extra amount of spice to the fixture.
For Cork City they face one of the trickiest teams they’ve come across this season. Bohs’ form against City has been outstanding considering how far down the table they are compared to their Southern counterparts. The Rebel Army have failed to keep out Bohs in every game in both the league and FAI Cup. This is something that the Leesiders will have to tureen around if they’re to stay in the hunt for the title.
Biggest league game in Turner’s Cross since 2005
The result last night throws up a unique fixture in Turner’s Cross on Friday night. It has been many years since such a big fixture has occurred on Leeside, concerning a league title challenge.
One of those fixtures was against Dundalk in 1991, which went the way of the Louth side and although a win on Friday against Bohs would not secure the title; such is the magnitude of the fixture it is reminiscent of 2005 when Cork City claimed the Premier Division title with a 2-0 win over second placed Derry City.
A similar crowd will be expected on the south-side of Cork City come Friday. There has been a massive following behind Cork City this year, particularly at home. Manager John Caulfield has commented on the bond that there is between the players and the fans all season and those fans will be there in abundance at Turners Cross come Friday.
Bohemians will be in confident mood heading to Cork, knowing they have put three goals past the Leesiders in two fixtures at Turner’s Cross this term. However, the fanfare is sure to make a difference with a close to sell-out crowd likely.
Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk are a formidable team and they come with a manager who usually makes a positive influence at every club he’s been at. His time at Shamrock Rovers didn’t go as planned but since he’s moved to Louth his Dundalk side have played a good blend of attacking football, while still maintaining a solid defence.
Players like Richie Towell, Daryl Horgan and Patrick Hoban stand out amongst the crowd as some of the biggest talents in the league currently and Kenny has harnessed their talents to bring them within touching distance of the title.
John Caulfield came into this league as an unknown and Cork City come into the final days of the season still as underdogs. But they have made their own way not wavering from a vision the ex-City legend set out on at the beginning of the season.
He’s given Turners Cross back its reputation as a fortress in League of Ireland football as well as making some especially canny signings in Mark O’Sullivan and Ross Gaynor. However it’s the City bosses ability to get the most out of the players who were already there that is most impressive.
The elders of the squad such as Colin Healy, Dan Murray and Mark McNulty have had arguably their best season in terms of performance at the club, inspired by the way Caulfield manages and expects his team to play. There is a defiance in this City team that has been missing in recent years but it is back under John Caulfield.
Final day title showdown
It may still not come to be, depending on next Friday’s results, but if the game between the sides comes down to the last day it will be the highlight of the season for both clubs. Dundalk have already tasted success in the EA Sports Cup this year but as one of Ireland’s most successful clubs with nine league titles they will be aiming for number ten come the 24th of October.
At this stage of the season it would be an injustice to say that getting this far is a bonus for the Rebel Army but at the start of the season, with reaching Europe being the main objective, this side have surpassed many pundit’s expectations.
That will not be good enough now for this side and with two games to go; for both City and Dundalk it comes down to a simple equation – win the next two games and the title is theirs.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena.
Featured image By Hugh Mansfield.AC+79 3888 at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons.