A number of the title contenders clashed in the Airtricity Premier Division this weekend as the first round of fixtures came to a close. Dundalk returned to the top with an impressive 4-0 victory over second placed Cork City while Sligo and St Pats played out an entertaining 2-2 draw on Saturday night.
The eagerly anticipated meeting of the top two in Dundalk failed to live up to the billing, as a rampant Dundalk side were far too strong for Cork, whose long unbeaten run finally came to an end. The hosts roared out of the blocks with a goal from John Mountey, before a brace of headers from Pat Hoban saw the Lilywhites 3-0 up at the break. Richie Towell added a fourth in the second half, as City never looked like coming back. The win sees Dundalk back on track after a shaky few weeks while City have been brought down to earth with a bump and will have to pick themselves up before a trip to the champions next week.
St. Pats themselves will feel aggrieved not to have won at the Showgrounds on Saturday but a late Danny North penalty let Sligo snatch a point. A 77th minute penalty from Conan Byrne looked to have sealed a comeback from Pats, who had gone behind to a John Russell goal, but they couldn’t hold out. Both sides will be glad to maintain the unbeaten runs and are well placed for a strong season after sluggish starts. Sligo travel to Dundalk next Friday, where they will look to firmly re-establish themselves in the title shake-up while St. Pats take on a Cork side looking to bounce back after their first defeat of the season.
The surprise of the weekend came at Tallaght Stadium where Limerick frustrated Shamrock Rovers and came away with a well deserved point. They were unfortunate not to take all three, as Rovers’ blushes were only spared by an equaliser from Jason McGuinness in the 7th minute of stoppage time, ironically created by Limerick’s time-wasting. Rovers will be hugely disappointed with their performance as they missed the chance to go joint top. Limerick will be delighted with the unexpected point but they still look painfully short of goals.
Athlone earned their first point of the season after a scoreless draw with Bray but they will be kicking themselves for missing a late penalty through Graham Rusk. Bray continue to pick up points but they’ll be disappointed not to have built on their win over Dundalk last week.
Derry’s miserable campaign was brightened by a belting equaliser at Dalymount Park from Patrick McEleney, a goal which earned them a point they scarcely deserved. Bohemians home frustrations continue as they failed to capitalise on the Rory Patterson’s first half sending off and they remain without a home win all season, and without a win anywhere in their last six in all competitions. Jason Byrne got his sixth of the season but he needs better support if Bohs are to start turning draws into wins. Roddy Collins’s days at Derry look numbered as they continue to struggle for goals (just 8 in 11 games so far) and they face three of the top four in their next four games.
Finally, UCD picked up their first win in eight in all competitions thanks to two late goals from Robbie Benson and Cillian Morrison against Drogheda. The win sees the students back on level terms with Limerick and Bohs around the relegation play-off positions while the defeat makes it five in a row for Drogheda. They are now just a point ahead of those three despite an excellent start and they desperately need to stop this slump against Bohs next week.
Simon Bracken, Pundit Arena.
Airtricity Premier Division results – 2nd/3rd May
Athlone Town 0-0 Bray Wanderers
Bohemians 1-1 Derry City
UCD 2-1 Drogheda United
Dundalk 4-0 Cork City
Shamrock Rovers 1-1 Limerick
Sligo Rovers 2-2 St. Patrick’s Athletic