Conor Hayes discusses three conclusions from League of Ireland Gameweek 31 in what is well and truly the business end of the campaign with relegation battles and Premier Division champions to be decided in the next couple of weeks.
Dundalk leave the door ajar for Cork City
After a dramatic game on Monday night at Oriel Park, which was belied by a 0-0 scoreline, Dundalk have allowed the Leesiders back into the title race. Of course, it might have been worse for the Lilywhites had Ryan Brennan not sent his penalty into orbit.
Dundalk felt they should have had a spot kick of their own too in the dying moments, after a handball by Simon Madden. Running over the shambles that is League of Ireland referring is a weekly highlight but on this occasion one would have to show some sympathy to Rob Rogers.
It was one of those incidents which illustrate how ambiguous the laws of the game can be. Had it been given Rovers might well have been fuming while we all would have said we’ve seen them given. As it was many could understand Stephen Kenny’s frustration, while accepting the number of reasons Rogers decided not to blow his whistle.
Rovers should probably have been given another chance from the spot after a ludicrously clumsy challenge by Andy Boyle inside the area which, bizarrely, no Rovers player appealed for. It was that kind of night.
So we move to Friday to see if the ultimate final day showdown can be arranged. The leaders travel to Bray while Cork host Bohemians at Turner’s Cross. Dundalk did lose this fixture back in April but Wanderers have regressed since then, while City have failed to beat the Gypsies on the four occasions they have faced them this season. A pessimist might suggest Bohs have the indian sign over Caulfield’s charges.
A more optimistic Corkonian would say they are surely due a win over the red and black. It’s expected that both challengers will win to set up the match all the neutrals are craving but this can be a very strange league at the best of times.
Shamrock Rovers now must rely on St. Pat’s
The Tallaght side’s time wasting in the closing minutes of the Dundalk match suggested they had already given up hope of overhauling the Saints for third place and the final automatic European spot. They now look to the FAI Cup final with more than an interested eye as they must now hope for a Pat’s win, which would see them into European competition.
Having to rely on the Inchicore outfit to win a cup final is a pretty uncomfortable place to be given their unenviable ability to throw these games away, usually in quite staggering fashion.
No matter what happens though on November 2nd it’s been another disappointing season for Shamrock Rovers. For the third consecutive year since making the Europa League group stages they have failed to challenge for the title.
Another manager has come and gone, the signing of Stephen McPhail has been an expensive disaster and unforgivably, they lost a cup semi-final after being handed a home draw.
Pat Fenlon will no doubt engineer a clear-out during the long off-season. Whether they have European prize money to look forward to might well decide just how effective he can be with that process.
Athlone Town need a point for a play-off
Another week and another heavy defeat for UCD who slumped to a 4-0 dismantling by Cork City on Friday evening. There are rumours of dressing room unrest at the club abound, which is no surprise given the performances they are putting in on the pitch. Their main rivals for the automatic drop, Athlone, also can’t buy a win but they have a handy knack of picking up draws.
As they’re just one point behind with two games to go one would think one more of those draws will be enough for Athlone. They have been bottom since week one so to escape and give themselves a chance for survival in the play-offs would be huge.
One More Thing…
John Delaney. The Saturday Night Show. Just why?
Conor Hayes, Pundit Arena.